RESTORATION OF TRUTH AND REVIVAL.
By C. H. Spurgeon .
OH for a great and general revival of true religion! Not a burst of mere excitement, but a real awakening, a work of the Eternal Spirit. This would be a glorious reply to skepticism, and would act like a strong wind in clearing the air, and driving away the miasmata which lurk in the stagnant atmosphere. There would then be small honor paid to men who mar the gospel of our Lord, and truth, which has fallen in our streets, would again ascend her throne. Let us pray for such a visitation of the Holy Ghost with our whole souls. It is not only desirable, it is essential; we must either be revived by the Lord himself, or the churches will descend until error and ungodliness swallow them up. This calamity shall not happen but only divine grace can avert it.
At the same time, we cannot expect a gracious revival till we are clear of complicity with the deadening influences which are all around us. A man of God writes us: “You cannot well overstate the spiritual death and dearth which prevail in the provinces. Where the ‘minister is successful’ no Unitarian would be offended with the preaching, and where ‘not successful,’ we see a miserably superficial handling of the Word, without power. Of course there are valuable exceptions. What can be expected as to spirituality in the church when deacons are better acquainted with ‘Hamlet,’ and Irving’s actings, than with the Word of God? And what about the next age, when the children are treated to pantomimes, and a taste is created for these things?” This brother’s lamentation is of a piece with hosts of others which load our table. They come from men who are second to none in spiritual weight. Either these brethren are dreaming, or they are located in specially bad places; or else there is grievous cause for humiliation. We will not go deep into this question, it is too painful. The extent to which sheer frivolity and utterly inane amusement have been carried in connection with some places of worship would almost exceed belief. We call the attention of our readers to the fact that doctrine has been the ground of battle in the Down-Grade struggle which has been chosen by our opponents, but on the matter of prayer-meetings and worldliness they have been prudently silent. Certain of them have in this affair exhibited that discretion which is the better part of valor.
If any of our churches have been guilty in this respect, how can they expect the divine Spirit to work with them? Wherever the statement which we have quoted, or a similar one, can be proved, we are at a loss to know how conversions can be looked for. The Lord our God is holy, and he cannot compromise his own glorious name by working with persons whose groveling tastes lead them to go to Egypt—we had almost said to Sodom—for their recreations. Is this walking with God? Is this the manner in which Enochs are produced?
It is a heart-sorrow to have to mention such things, but the work of the Lord must be done faithfully, and this evil must be laid bare. There can be no doubt that all sorts of entertainments, as nearly as possible approximating to stage-plays, have been carried on in connection with places of worship, and are, at this present time, in high favor. Can these things promote holiness, or help in communion with God? Can men come away from such things and plead with God for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers? We loathe to touch the unhallowed subject; it seems so far removed from the walk of faith, and the way of heavenly fellowship. In some cases the follies complained of are even beneath the dignity of manhood, and fitter for the region of the imbecile than for thoughtful men.
Brethren in Christ, in every church let us purge out the things which weaken and pollute. It is clear to every one who is willing to see it that laxity of doctrine is either the parent of worldliness, or is in some other way very near akin to it. The men who give up the old faith are the same persons who plead for latitude as to general conduct. The Puritan is not more notorious for his orthodoxy than for his separateness from the world.
Liberal divines do not always command the respect of the public, but they gain a certain popularity by pandering to prevailing tastes. The ungodly world is so far on their side that it commends them for their liberality, and rails at the orthodox as bigots and kill-joys. It is a very suspicious circumstance that very often the less a man knows of the inner life, and the less he even cares to speak of it, the more heartily he is for the new theology, the theory of evolution, and the condemnation of all settled doctrine. Those who would have a blessing from the Lord must avoid all this, and determine to follow the Lord fully. Not only must they quit false doctrine, but they must receive the gospel, not as dogma, but as vital truth.
Only as the truth is attended with living faith will it prove its own royal power. Believers must also sweep the house of the leaven of worldliness, and the frivolities of a giddy generation. The evil which is now current eats as doth a canker, and there is no hope for healthy godliness until it is cut out of the body of the church by her again repenting, and doing her first works.
Those who through divine grace have not defiled their garments must not content themselves with censuring others, but must arouse themselves to seek a fuller baptism of the Spirit of God. Perhaps these evils are permitted that they may act as a sieve upon the heap gathered on the Lord’s threshing-floor. Possibly they are allowed that our apathetic churches may be aroused. We know already of several cases in which true ministers have gone over the foundation truths again with their people, and have preached the saving Word with clearer emphasis. In other cases churches have been summoned to special prayer about this matter. This is a good beginning: let it be carried out on the widest scale. As one man let us cry mightily unto the Lord our God, that he would arise and plead his own cause. Now, if never before, let those who are loyal to Jesus and his Word be up and doing. A boundless blessing is waiting for the asking. We believe in prayer. LET US PRAY LIKE ELIJAHS.
In reference to the Down-Grade controversy and the Baptist Union, we are urged to further action; but it would be far easier to take a foolish step than to retrace it. We will move when we are moved, and not before.
Conferences, societies, and leagues are proposed: all are admirable, no doubt; but which out of many suggestions is the most suitable? We do not see our way. May the Lord himself direct his people! Meanwhile, to redouble our prayers, and to seek a revival in all our churches, cannot possibly be a mistake. Prayer, mighty prayer, can do wonders. This is the work of the present hour. Pray without ceasing, and preach the faithful Word in clearer terms than ever. Such a course of conduct may seem to some to be a sort of standing still and doing nothing, but in very truth it is bringing God into the battle; and whenHE comes to avenge the quarrel of his covenant, he will make short work of it. “Arise, O Lord, plead thine own cause!”
NOTES. (DEC. 1887) THE very first thing must be to speak up for our orphans concerning their treat for Christmas. Just before leaving England we had boys and girls together, such a company, and we had a little treat; but we promised that, whether C. H. S. could be with them on Christmas-day or not, we would try and make it a glorious day for them. Will our friends again bedeck the tables of the fatherless on the day of universal joy? The friend who used to give a new shilling to every orphan is not now able to do it: for which we are truly sorry. Is there no other large heart endowed with a large purse? It takes £25 to give a shilling each all round, but it is such a help for pocketmoney for quite a time after, that we would like to keep it up. Ladies and gentlemen, between the ages of 99 and 4, all and sundry of you, we, the Stockwell five hundred, both lads and lasses, will thank you if, by gifts of money, or goods, you will help us to a happy Christmas-day in 1887.
Thank you five hundred times over for having done so in years gone by.
Mrs. Spurgeon will be glad to receive the Christmas money-gifts, and to reply for us. Presents in kind should be directed to Mr. Charlesworth, at The Orphanage, Stockwell. The Sword and the Trowel volume for 1887 will be ready on Jan. 1. It has made history and recorded it. At five shillings it is not dear, and it makes a fine addition to a library.
Messrs. Hollings and Brock, of 22, Paternoster Row, are the advertisement agents for this magazine, and they ask us to note the large number of literary advertisements contained in this month’s wrapper. All sorts of good things are mentioned; indeed, they make up quite a complete catalogue of Christmas requirements in the line of books, cards, etc. We hope friends will patronize them. The publishers are ever ready to advertise with us, because they value our notices of their books. Necessarily short, our remarks are not, therefore, superficial: the utmost care is taken to judge correctly. We are not infallible, but we are indefatigable. Of course, our point of view is well known, and we do not pretend to look from any other; but a plain and honest statement of opinion is evidently valued, even though at times it may be unfavorable, and therefore may be considered severe. We never yet heard of a drummer who could flog a man so that he liked it, and therefore we do not expect sharp criticism to be admired by the author who receives it; but, on the whole, we have been graciously tolerated even by those who have been disappointed.
The following letter was read at the Tabernacle on Sunday, November 13:— “Dear Friends at Tabernacle,—I have only left you a few days, but I am already rested by anticipation of rest to come. I wish to thank you all most heartily for your constancy of love during four-andthirty years of fellowship. We have been many in number, but only one in heart, all through these years. Specially is this true in the present hour of controversy, for my heartiest sympathizers are in my own church. Several enthusiastic ones proposed a general meeting of church-members, to express their fervent agreement with their Pastor: but the ever-faithful deacons and elders had taken time by the forelock, and presented to me a letter signed by them all as representing their brethren and sisters. Such unity comes from the grace of God, proves that his blessing is now with us, and prophesies future happiness. What can I do but thank you all, love you in return, labor for you as long as strength remains, and pray for you till I die? The infinite blessing of the Eternal God be with you for ever! “Your grateful Pastor, “C H.SPURGEON.”
We give the document alluded to in the above letter. It would have been worded far more strongly, but the Pastor is always for great brevity in expressions concerning himself, and his wishes caused many a glowing paragraph to be struck out. There was a general feeling that the officers would like to make the utterance more forcible; but they added that even then it would fall far short of the warmth of their feelings. “Metropolitan Tabernacle, “Newington, S.E., “October 27th, 1887. “Resolved:—’That we, the deacons and elders of the church, worshipping in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, hereby tender to our beloved Pastor, C. H.
Spurgeon, our deep sympathy with him in the circumstances that have led to his withdrawal from the Baptist Union. And we heartily concur in our sincere appreciation of the steadfast zeal with which he maintains the doctrines of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in their inspired and apostolic simplicity.’“ Signed by the Co-Pastor, together with all the Deacons and Elders.
At subsequent meetings the above was not deemed adequately to express the affection, confidence, and esteem cherished by all the church officers towards their beloved Pastor and leader, they, therefore, unanimously agreed to the following addition:— “Our former resolution was passed with unanimous and unhesitating concurrence. But, touching only on one point, it was generally thought inadequate to convey to you, our dear Pastor, a full sense of the affection, the confidence, and the esteem in which you are held by us all. Of this, however, we can offer you no more fitting exposition than the readiness of each and every one to approve ourselves as ‘Helps’ in the diversified gifts, administrations, and operations of the Holy Spirit with which you have, after the divine order, been so largely entrusted. “And it may not be altogether inappropriate, or inopportune, to record our conviction that you have done good service, on a wide and constantlywidening scale, by affirming the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; by inculcating the doctrines of grace, as taught by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ under the immediate guidance of the Spirit of God; and by preserving in our midst the uncorrupted simplicity of public worship. “Permit us to add our fervent hope, and our devout prayer, that your vigorous protests against the innovations of ‘modern thought’ in pulpits supposed to be orthodox, will eventually largely promote the unity of the churches of Christ throughout the world.”
Certain antagonists have tried to represent the Down-Grade controversy as a revival of the old feud between Calvinists and Arminians. It is nothing of the kind. Many evangelical Arminians are as earnestly on our side as men can be. We do not conceal our own Calvinism in the least; but this conflict is for truths which are common to all believers. This is no battle over words, but it deals with the eternal verities—those foundation truths which belong not exclusively to this party or to that. It is of no use attempting to drag this red herring across our path: we can argue other points and maintain Christian harmony at the same time: but with those who treat the Bible as waste paper, and regard the death of Christ as no substitution, we have no desire for fellowship. We have come out in earnest protest, and feel great content of conscience in having done so.
The barefaced manner in which certain persons assert that to separate front men who hold vital errors is contrary to the mind of Christ, would be amusing if it were not saddening. They write as if such a Book as the New Testament were not in existence: they evidently decide what the mind of Christ ought to be, without referring to such poor creatures as the apostles.
As for us, we think more of Paul and John than of the whole body of modern thinkers. What saith the Scriptures? “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 10,11.) “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8,9.) The spirit of Scripture is one, and therefore we may be sure that decision for truth, and separation from the erring, are in full consistency with the charity of 1 Corinthians 13, to which we are so continually pointed. It is true charity to those who err to refuse to aid and abet them in their errors. “Charity” sounds very prettily in the mouths of those who wish to screen themselves, but, if they had exercised it in the past, they might not have driven us out from among the people, to whom we naturally belong.
Whether other ministers are going to leave the Union also remains to be seen. We do not expect that they will do so; but we trust that, if they remain, they will resolve that reform shall be carried out, and truth vindicated.