By C. H. Spurgeon
IN this age of progress, religious opinions move at railway speed. Within the last few weeks many have made an open advance of a very special kind; we say an open advance, for we suspect that secretly they had for a long time harbored the errors which now they have avowed. And what a revelation it is! Here, one sees a “Moderate” declaring his advance to “another gospel” in the boldest terms; and there, another, highly esteemed for his supposed love of the truth, stubbing it after the subtle manner of its most malicious foes. While some of the most perverted cunningly endeavor to appear orthodox, others of a braver nature come out in their true colors, and astonish us with the glaring hue of their heresy. That which makes manifest is light; and, however much we may deplore the unwelcome discoveries of the present controversy, we ought to be thankful that they are made, for it is better for us to know where we are, and with whom we are associating.
The idea of a progressive gospel seems to have fascinated many. To us that notion is a sort of cross-breed between nonsense and blasphemy. After the gospel has been found effectual in the eternal salvation of untold multitudes, it seems rather late in the day to alter it; and, since it is the revelation of the all-wise and unchanging God, it appears somewhat audacious to attempt its improvement. When we call up before our mind’s eye the gentlemen who have set themselves this presumptuous task, we feel half inclined to laugh; the case is so much like the proposal of moles to improve the light of the sun. Their gigantic intellects are to hatch out the meanings of the Infinite! We think we see them brooding over hidden truths to which they lend the aid of their superior genius to accomplish their development!
Hitherto they have not hatched out much worth rearing. Their chickens are so much of the Roman breed, that we sometimes seriously suspect that, after all, Jesuitical craft may be at the bottom of this “modern thought.” It is singular that, by the way of free-thought, men should be reaching the same end as others arrived at by the path of superstition. Salvation by works is one distinctive doctrine of the new gospel: in many forms this is avowed and gloried in—not, perhaps, in exact words, but in declarations quite unmistakable. The Galatian heresy is upon us with a vengeance: in the name of virtue and morality, justification by faith and salvation by free grace are bitterly assailed. Equally a child of darkness is this New Purgatory. It is taught that men can escape if they neglect the great salvation. No longer is the call, “Today, if ye will hear his voice”; for the tomorrow of the next state will answer quite as well. Of course, if men may be gradually upraised from sin and ruin in the world to come, common humanity would lead us to pray that the process may go on rapidly. We are hearing every now and again of “a night of prayers for the dead,” among certain priests of the Establishment. Nor is it among Ritualists alone, or even mainly, for the other day, at a meeting for prayer, an eminent believer in this notion prayed heartily for the devil; and his prayer, upon the theory of the restitution of all the sinful, was most natural. Prayers for the dead and prayers for the devil! Shades of Knox and Latimer, where are ye? How easy will it be to go from prayers for the dead to payment to good men for special supplications on their behalf! Of course if a devout person will spend an hour in praying a deceased wife out of her miseries, a loving husband will not let him exercise his supplications for nothing. It would be very mean of him if he did. “Purgatory Pick-purse,” as our Protestant forefathers called it, is upon us again, having entered by the back-door of infidel speculation instead of by the front entrance of pious opinion.
Nor is this all; for our “improvers” have pretty nearly obliterated the hope of such a heaven as we have all along expected. Of course, the reward of the righteous is to be of no longer continuance than the punishment of the wicked. Both are described as “everlasting” in the same verse, spoken by the same sacred lips; and as the “punishment” is made out to be only “agelasting,” so must the “life” be. Worse even than this, if worse can be, it is taught by some of these “improvers” that even the blessed of the Father are by no means blessed overmuch; for, according to the latest information, even they will have to undergo a sort of purgatorial purification in the world to come. There are degrees in the inventiveness of the nineteenth- century theologians; but, to our mind, it is the license given to this inventiveness, even when it is most moderate, which is the root of the whole mischief. What is to be taught next? And what next?
Do men really believe that there is a gospel for each century? Or a religion for each fifty years? Will there be in heaven saints saved according to a score sorts of gospel? Will these agree together to sing the same song?
And what will the song be? Saved on different footings, and believing different doctrines, will they enjoy eternal concord, or will heaven itself be only a new arena for disputation between varieties of faiths?
We shall, on the supposition of an ever-developing theology, owe a great deal to the wisdom of men. God may provide the marble; but it is man who will carve the statue. It will no longer be true that God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes; but the babes will be lost in hopeless bewilderment, and carnal wisdom will have fine times for glorying. Scientific men will be the true prophets of our Israel, even though they deny Israel’s God; and instead of the Holy Spirit guiding the humble in heart, we shall see the enthronement of “the spirit of the age,” whatever that may mean. “The world by wisdom knew not God,” so says the apostle of the ages past; but the contrary is to be our experience nowadays. New editions of the gospel are to be excogitated by the wisdom of men, and we are to follow in the wake of “thoughtful preachers,” whose thoughts are not as God’s thoughts. Verily this is the deification of man! Nor do the moderns shrink even from this. To many of our readers it may already be known that it is beginning to be taught that God himself is but the totality of manhood, and that our Lord Jesus only differed from us in being one of the first men to find out that he was God: he was but one item of that race, which, in its solidarity, is divine.
It is thought to be mere bigotry to protest against the mad spirit which is now loose among us. Pan-indifferentism is rising like the tide; who can hinder it? We are all to be as one, even though we agree in next to nothing.
It is a breach of brotherly love to denounce error. Hail, holy charity! Black is white; and white is black. The false is true; the true is false; the true and the false are one. Let us join hands, and never again mention those barbarous, old-fashioned doctrines about which we are sure to differ. Let the good and sound men for liberty’s sake shield their “advanced brethren”; or, at least, gently blame them in a tone which means approval. After all, there is no difference, except in the point of view from which we look at things: it is all in the eye, or, as the vulgar say, “it is all my eye”! In order to maintain an open union, let us fight as for dear life against any form of sound words, since it might restrain our liberty to deny the doctrines of the Word of God!
But what if earnest protests accomplish nothing, because of the invincible resolve of the infatuated to abide in fellowship with the inventors of false doctrine? Well, we shall at least have done our duty. We are not responsible for success. If the plague cannot be stayed, we can at least die in the attempt to remove it. Every voice that is lifted up against Anything Arianism is at least a little hindrance to its universal prevalence. It may be that in some one instance a true witness is strengthened by our word, or a waverer is kept from falling; and this is no mean reward. It is true that our testimony may be held up to contempt; and may, indeed, in itself be feeble enough to be open to ridicule; but yet the Lord, by the weak things of the world, has overcome the mighty in former times, and he will do so again.
We cannot despair for the church or for the truth, while the Lord lives and reigns; but, assuredly, the conflict to which the faithful are now summoned is not less arduous than that in which the Reformers were engaged. So much of subtlety is mixed up with the whole business, that the sword seems to fall upon a sack of wool, or to miss its mark. However, plain truth will cut its way in the end, and policy will ring its own death-knell.
Not with this man, or that Council, or that Union, are the lovers of the old gospel at war at this present; but with the whole body of unbelief which is now attempting to borrow the Christian name, and effect a settlement within Christian territory. This spirit is in all the churches, more or less; indeed, it seems to be in the air. The prince of the power of the air is loosed in an extraordinary manner for a season, misleading even the godly, and triumphing greatly in those whose willing minds yield full assent to his deceitful teachings. On this account our fears are great for the Baptist churches, which have in former ages been the strongholds of the gospel of the grace of God. Those communities which avowedly confess the truth of God can deal with the spirit of unbelief, at least in a measure; but those bodies of men which hold no settled doctrines, and make no profession of believing anything definite, are like houses with open doors, inviting the unclean spirit to enter, and take up his abode. We have tried to deal with the spirit of error in its abstract form; but we have also recommended, as a practical action on the behalf of the Baptist Denomination (which we believe to be upon the whole sound in the faith), that it should accept an Evangelical basis. Its churches and Associations in most cases have such a basis; why not the Union which is made up of them? This question is to come before the Baptist Union at its next general meeting. Should the proposal of an Evangelical basis be carried out, we shall greatly rejoice, for it may be a rebuke to the incipient party of error, which has of late talked so exceeding loudly; but if this is not done, other and stronger measures must be taken, which will enable faithful men to bear their testimony without having it marred by their fellowship with evil. The faithful will take steps to enable them to carry out practical work for the Lord, without the depressing suspicion that their zeal may, after all, be only building nests to be in the future occupied by the hatchers of false doctrine. It may be that, in the Baptist Denomination, the purifying process will be long and painful; but we trust that grace will be given to true believers to persevere till it is accomplished, or else to come forth from the baseless Union, and separate themselves for the defense of the truth of God. We fear that the outlook for certain other denominations is not nearly so hopeful. In their case, what is wanted in the gracious remnant is “a larger hope” than they have at present, that even yet the forces of falsehood can be overcome, since the battle is the Lord’s.
NOTES. (APRIL 1888) PRAYER should be continually offered by the people of God at this time.
The Baptist Union meets in full assembly on April 23, and the great question then before it will be—”Is this Union to have an Evangelical basis or not?” We trust the question will be discussed with good temper, and that the decision will be of the right kind. Surely, as every other body of Christians avows its faith, the Baptist Union should do the same. Whatever its belief is, let it own it.
We trust that no personal considerations will be allowed to divert the Assembly from its great topic. The censure need not be taken into account: the object of it would sooner be censured ten thousand times over than have his name and method of protest used as a red herring to be drawn across the scent. If the Council has any more resolutions to introduce of the nature of further censure, let it have ample scope; but we hope no solitary moment will be spent in an attempt to reverse its previous deliverance. The time will be better spent upon weightier matters.
Should the majority decide that there shall be no Evangelical basis, the conflict will then begin. There is great reluctance to retire from the Union, but there is a strong resolve to continue seeking a reformation by all available means until the attempt shall prove altogether hopeless. We have heard this determination frequently expressed, and cogent arguments used for its support. It certainly does seem rather out of order that the majority should have to retire before the minority; at any rate, it will be wise to see what the respective numbers are.
An appeal has been made to us to use our influence to prevent the discussion; but this is absurd. Our influence could not prevent the discussion; and we would not prevent it if we could. Do these friends really think that we are playing with words, and have no solemn convictions? So far from ceasing to ask for an Evangelical basis at this particular meeting of the Baptist Union, the brethren who desire it will never discontinue their request until they obtain it. We have come to the parting of the ways, and the old school and the new cannot go much further in company; nor ought they to do so. Let them part with as little friction as possible.
To answer the various inventions of opponents is a work too weary for one who has enough to bear and to do without replying to rumors. If some accuse, many approve; and, meanwhile, rising above both the wrath and admiration of man, our heart finds rest in debug the will of God.
No doubt Israel is troubled, and he who exposes the evil is blamed for it; but in truth the troublers of our Israel are those who have introduced strange doctrines among us. If false teaching were put away, peace and prosperity would return. When the mists have rolled away, and brethren, for the while, blinded by a strange infatuation, once more see things as they are, they will no longer be angry because of the purging of the barn-floor, but will praise God for it.
We are issuing a pamphlet entitled “Creed or No Creed? A question for the Baptist Union.” This penny pamphlet, by the brother who first wrote on “The Down-Grade,” should be read by all who take an interest in this great discussion.
An interesting incident of the “Down-Grade” controversy has occurred at Guildford. The Young Men’s Christian Association in that town recently held a conference upon the “Down-Grade” question; when it was evident that most of those who took part in the discussion were themselves upon the “Down-Grade.” The result was, that lovers of the truth in the town and neighborhood bestirred themselves, a public meeting was called, the ministers and members of the Baptist and other Evangelical churches attended in large numbers, and a strong resolution of sympathy with us was passed, with only two dissentients.
The Y. M. C. A. scarcely expected such an ending of the discussion, but it shows the advantage of letting in light. The one thing that the “Down- Grade” railway dreads is light.
NOTES. (MAY 1888) THE Evangelical Alliance has done grand service to the cause of truth by calling together Christians of all denominations to bear united testimonies to the common faith. It was our great privilege, on two memorable occasions, to address vast and enthusiastic audiences upon “the Unchangeable Gospel” and “Experience as the proof of the old faith.” Very hearty were the words of sympathy addressed to us in private, and overwhelming were the tokens of approval thundered out in public. Letters from all classes of the community, and from all sections of the Church of Christ, show the deep interest which is felt in the controversy concerning vital doctrines. On all sides there are hisses of the serpent, but in greater volume the voices of the seed of the woman. It is an hour of travail, but the outcome of it all will be the increase and the manifestation of true believers. As to breach of unity, nothing has ever more largely promoted the union of the true than the break with the false.
What is all this noise about? Is there anything worth contending for?
Otherwise contention itself is a serious evil, a sin to be answered for before the great Judge. We again declare that our contention is not for a narrow, sectarian form of teaching, nor for a personal peculiarity of persuasion: we contend only for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. This is assailed. Unbelief seems to be in the air. It is to be found, not alone in the ministry, but in the deaconship, and in the membership of the churches: not unbelief upon the outskirt truths, but upon the central teaching of revelation. We only asked that the grosser forms of error should not be tolerated within the bounds of the Christian body to which we belonged.
We thought the request a reasonable one, and to obtain it we proposed a form of sound words to be the basis of union. This has raised all this smother. In a few years’ time, if the truth should again be to the front, it will scarcely be believed that one of the most pronounced bodies of Evangelical Dissenters hesitated to declare its faith. Even now that body does not like distinctly to refuse, or honestly to yield the demand; and so it balances sentences, discusses everything except the main question, and proffers a base imitation of a declaration in lieu of that which is sought from it. Writing before the Annual Meeting, we write hopelessly. It is more than probable that another attempt will be made to put off the evil day of confessing its faith by raising some point of procedure; or else a strenuous endeavor will be made to get the scanty and objectionable historical statement of the Council carried through as a substitute for that which is requested. It matters little: the truth of God will stand, and those who hold it will in patience possess their souls.
Much talk is poured forth about charity and love. Our marvel has been how certain gentlemen, who have been so fluent thereon, could speak without their consciences rebuking them when they remember their ungenerous action, and personal animosity, towards one whom they speak of as an honored friend. The harsh language of more outspoken opponents has more music in it than such idle compliments. But we forbear. What is said of us is nothing; but shall truth be sold to keep up a wider fellowship?
The error in the Baptist denomination is ten times more widely spread than we knew of when we wrote the “Down-Grade” papers, and we are bound not to withdraw a syllable, but to emphasize each word with all our might.
We did not at the first aim at the Baptist body, for we thought most hopefully of it, but the controversy has revealed what we little dreamt of.
The Lord in mercy bring back the many wanderers!
NOTES. (JUNE 1888) IT was no small comfort to see the Baptist Union anxious to clear itself, and to make peace. I hoped that in this happy frame of mind it would do something which would mend matters, and therefore in all haste I retracted my prophecy that it would do nothing at all. But what has it done? The resolution, with its footnote, with the interpretation of its mover, and the re-election of the old council, fairly represent the utmost that would be done when everybody was in his best humor. Is it satisfactory? Does anybody understand it in the same sense as anybody else? Does not the whole virtue of the thing lie in its pleasing both sides a little? And is not this the vice and the condemnation of it?
I am not, however, careful to criticize the action of a body from which I am now finally divided. My course has been made clear by what has been done. I was afraid from the beginning that the reform of the Baptist Union was hopeless, and therefore I resigned. I am far more sure of it now, and should never under any probable circumstances dream of returning. Those who think it right to remain in such a fellowship will do so, but there are a few others who will judge differently, and will act upon their convictions.
At any rate, whether any others do so or not, I have felt the power of the text, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” and have quitted both Union and Association once for all. The next step may not be quite so clear; but this is forced upon me, not only by my convictions, but also by the experience of the utter uselessness of attempting to deal with the evil except by personally coming out from it.
The instinct of the gracious life is to seek congenial communion, and hence the necessity of some form of fellowship for ourselves and our churches will suggest itself to those who sorrowfully come forth from the old camp.
To institute such a thing formally, and ask persons to join it, would be folly: it must grow up of itself—by the demand of those who desire it, and then it will be true and lasting. I do not, therefore, move in this direction till I hear from other brethren of like mind that they desire to do so. It will not harm us to abide alone for a little while, till we see where we are; and then, whether we are few or many, we can unite to help our poorer brethren, and to conserve the faith. Our desire is not to oppose others, but that we may strengthen each other’s hands in the Lord. Utterly isolated church life would have its evils, and in true union there will be not only strength but joy. This will come in due time if it be the Lord’s will.
NOTES. (JULY 1888) AMAGAZINE is in some danger of death when the editor is so completely prostrate that his brain will not think, and his right hand cannot hold a pen.
But it has so happened that our peculiarly heavy affliction came upon us this time in a sort of interval between one monthly number and the next, and we are, through restoring mercy, again able to set about our appointed task. There is always some circumstance of grace about the heaviest trial.
The thorn-bush bears its rose. The Lord lets us see a bright light in the clouds even when they gather in grimmest fashion.
We have not done anything, nor scarcely even devised anything, as to the great conflict now raging between truth and error, for the one reason that we have been quite laid aside. On returning to the subject, we find many generous letters of sympathy, and not a few of painful information. A venerable Baptist brother says: “Dry rot is more extended than any of us thought. People and priest are infected by the disease. Yet the Ruler over all can overrule it for good. Many who are sound are timid, many confused as to what to do, and many too indolent to do anything; but the battle is the Lord’s.” This witness is true; but surely there are some left who have eyes to see the great evil at once, and courageous consistency enough to shake themselves free of it. If they need reminding of their duty, it is to be feared that they are not the men who are worth reminding. Time was when for a hundredth part of the foul evils now tolerated in religious Unions, servants of God would have lifted up the cry, “To your tents, O Israel!” Shall we be again called a pessimist if we say that the days when truth was everything are “with the years beyond the flood”?
Complaints as to sermons ridiculing answers to prayer, deriding early piety, speaking coarsely of the precious blood of Jesus, and denying the universal need of conversion, are common enough. We cannot spare space for instances, which would only give pain to faithful hearts. These are very sorrowful matters; for they betoken not so much doctrinal error as utter ungodliness. In some cases the man is more wrong in the heart than in the head, if we can judge by the general tone of his conversation. Certain preachers seem to have taken out a license to speak contemptuously of holy things, and they do this under cover of decrying the worn-out ideas of old-fashioned orthodoxy. Of course, they can do so with impunity when once their churches have become sufficiently worldly and heterodox.
Errors in creed are insignificant matters compared with the absence of spiritual life and the presence of irreligious scorn. One of our correspondents, by no means a bigot, says that, after hearing a sermon by a person of this school, he almost instinctively stood up to see what sort of people they were who would accept such talk as a part of public worship.
One does a little wonder what kind of Christians they must be.
In one of our churches the doctrines of Purgatory and Future Restitution have, since the Baptist Union meeting, been so distinctly preached that many of the members have taken alarm, and are looking about them to know what is to be done. It is said that the famous compromise condemned these notions, but it appears that the holders of them do not think so, for they remain where they were, and are even more bold than before to teach their delusions. How godly brethren can remain in fellowship with them is a question which rises continually to our lip. We would gladly contribute to union and harmony, but we have a conscience. There must be some few brethren left who possess the same sort of troublesome monitor; and, if so, they must have bad times when they come to think that their fellowship keeps the enemies of the gospel in countenance, and that the blood of innumerable souls will lie at their door.
A working-man, who is an intelligent deacon and preacher, giving us his name, and the name of the minister referred to, speaks of the old-fashioned orthodox teaching being held up to contempt from the pulpit. “The substitutionary sacrifice and the Trinity were quickly disposed of, and the penknife was set to work. Whole chapters were cut out of the Bible; we were told that certain books of it ought never to have been written. Verbal inspiration was utter rubbish, and ought never to be tolerated.” As a consequence, the number of empty pews is appalling, and the people are told to console themselves with the fact that mere numbers are no test of prosperity. The prospect of the chapel being closed is by no means remote.
It is with the utmost pain that we mention such instances, but there are still some who are bold enough to deny that there are any departures from the faith, or so very few that they are not worth mentioning. Of course, in that case, all that we have said is either willful falsehood, or else the dark dream of a morbid mind. We assert that we are neither morbid nor untrue, but that around us there are influences at work which are directly antagonistic to Christianity, and that anyone may see them who chooses to do so. The babyish game of shutting your eyes, and then crying, “I cannot see you,” has been played at long enough: it is time that the most prejudiced should acknowledge that which everybody sees except themselves.
A week or two ago, a minister had been to hear a Congregational divine, on a great occasion; and, as he came out of the chapel, he said to a brother minister, “There is truth after all in what Spurgeon says: ministers do make infidels, and this sermon will make a great many; and yet there are ministers here who will be delighted with the sermon.” The subject had been the infallibility of the Scriptures, especially the historical portions of them. The whole foundation of inspired teaching was abandoned. Time and thought will, we trust, arouse godly men to a sense of their wrong-doing in remaining in fellowship with those who not only deny the old-fashioned gospel, but question the fundamentals of religion. It cannot always be so that the Bible shall be degraded from its preeminence as the revelation of God, and those who are guilty of the crime shall yet be had in esteem as Christian teachers. It is wonderful how things have come to be as they are; but that they should remain so, is incredible, seeing that God lives to vindicate his own Word.
NOTES. (AUGUST 1888) WE take special note of Memorials of Joseph Tritton. Our departed friend was a man of a thousand—a choice and chastened spirit. By nature he was of pure taste and elevated spirit; but grace came in and refined everything, and wrought in him the beauty of holiness. All his sympathies were with the most pronounced evangelical teaching, and with the most practical gospel service. Nothing of the “Down-Grade” tendency could be endured by him: with a firmness singularly strengthened by gentleness, he put aside the false, and embraced the true. Mr. Tritton was the author of many exquisite hymns—hymns which are for persons of thoughtful mind and chaste taste. It would have been a great pity for these to have remained like scattered pearls; and it was a gracious impulse which led Mrs. Tritton to collect a number of them, and preserve them as a memorial of her beloved husband. That the volume should be sold for the benefit of the Baptist Missionary Society is a comely thing—such a thing as would comport with his own wish could he return among us. For twenty years he was the treasurer of the Baptist Mission; and at its jubilee, in 1842, he made his first public speech.
In these memorials we have both verse and prose. As the price is only 2s., and the money goes to the Mission, many of our readers will write to 19, Furnival Street, Holborn, for the book. They should enclose an extra threepence if they wish it sent by post.
We think our friends should all see the following letter by Mr. Henry Varley. We find it in Word and Work for July 20. It is a fine, outspoken, brotherly testimony; and, as we have had no conversation with our friend upon the subject dealt with, it is an altogether independent testimony from one who has traversed our country from end to end, and knows what he is writing about. We omit a paragraph about a newspaper, but give the rest verbatim:— “Mr. Varley On The ‘Down-Grade.’ “To the Editor of ‘Word and Work. ’ “Sir,—The discussion which has taken place during my absence from England is, in my judgment, of the very first importance; and I regret exceedingly that I was not here to express my hearty sympathy with Mr. Spurgeon, and those who have taken part in the defense of the gospel of Christ. “There is great danger lest the important issues which have been raised by the ‘Down-Grade’ controversy should, in the interests of peace and union, be diminished and made light of. The mental activities of the present time are not favorable to holding firmly the Word of God. Revelation, which is unchanging, is not fast enough for an age of which it may be said, ‘Change is its fashion.’ All the more necessary, therefore, does it become to ‘hold fast the form of sound words,’ and contend earnestly, not for what some have called a mechanical system of interpretation, but ‘for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ “We ought not to forget, face to face as we are with thousands of volumes filled with corrupt and false thought on almost every subject, that the prolific chamber for the conception and birth of false thought is the human mind, whenever it refuses the limit, discipline, and guidance of the fundamental principles of the Word of God. It is the faith of Christ which is persistently attacked, and which we intend persistently to defend. “Take a recent case. In a northern town, a Congregational minister, conversing with one of his brethren, said, in reference to his approaching Sunday-school anniversary, ‘I select the hymns; I do not leave it to my superintendent or teachers.’ ‘Why not?’ was the inquiry. ‘Well,’ was this false teacher’s reply, ‘very likely they would select hymns that I object to have sung in my church.’ ‘Why, what hymns do you refer to?’ inquired the brother minister. ‘Well,’ was the Congregational minister’s reply, ‘such hymns as “Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” or “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” or “There is a fountain filled with blood”; I am not going to have such hymns sung in my church.’ “Now, Sir, I fear the Congregational Union is powerless to deal with this deceiver. There cannot be room to doubt that, if this man had told the church of which he is the pastor that he would not have these hymns sung, he would never have been elected as the minister. The unfailing Word describes this dishonest deceiver to the life: ‘But there were false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall PRIVILY bring in damnable heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (2 Peter 2:1). “This deceiver brought in privily his destructive heresies; that is, he kept back from the church his views until he had secured his position as the minister. The dishonesty of such conduct is patent. I can understand ministers drifting into the deceptions which deny the atonement after they have been elected, but in such cases honesty of conduct would at once say, ‘I must leave this church; my views are changed, but that change does not discharge my responsibility in regard to the doctrines and teachings which are held by the church in which I minister.’ “Why do not these men take neutral ground, and air their modern notions on their own platforms? Is it anything less than dishonesty of the worst possible type for a man to appear to subscribe to the doctrine of the gospel of Christ by accepting a platform or pulpit confessedly committed to and identified with that gospel, all the time intending, when the ministerial position is secured, to undermine and subvert that gospel? It may well be said of these men, ‘They bring in sects of perdition’ (R.V.). For of those who reject the sacrifice of Christ in order to the putting away of sin it is written, ‘There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries’ (Hebrews 10:27). “The spread and working of this accursed leaven is defiling and corrupting in many quarters. Let us make no mistake, nor suffer the cry of ‘Peace, peace,’ to arrest the watchman’s alarm. I am sure, Sir, to hear some of the things which have been written and said, you would suppose that Mr. Spurgeon ought to have framed definite charges against certain men in the Baptist Union, and have had them tried for heresy. “I know of no court for such a trial; and if it existed, the men who should be charged with the heresy would be represented as martyrs, and as being persecuted for truth and liberty. Sympathy, money, and professions of friendship would be readily tendered; whilst Mr.
Spurgeon, or any other man who should so act, would be held up before his fellow-men as a bigoted persecutor. The press, especially a portion of the religious press, would heap ridicule and opprobrium upon the entire question at issue. “Separation, in my judgment, in Mr. Spurgeon’s case, was wise and right. In no other way could he have made so effectual a protest against these ‘destructive heresies.’ The providence of God has made his servant (Mr. Spurgeon) much more than a prominent Baptist. He belongs to the greater church, viz., the church of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. His coming out from the Baptist Union has done very important service. Better that ten denominational unions should perish than that the great truth of Christ’s sacrifice for sin should be ignored, misrepresented, or fail of constant prominence. “Mr. Spurgeon’s protest has been most timely. It in unwise to limit Mr. Spurgeon s action and attitude as though it necessarily reflected painfully or exclusively upon his own brethren in the Baptist denomination. This has arisen mainly by reason of Mr.
Spurgeon’s overshadowing individuality. In the same way I can understand what have been felt as our strong brother’s hard words.
I am as certain as I live that Mr. Spurgeon never intended any reflection upon such men as the gentle-spirited Dr. Culross; but I apprehend that none of the brethren would delegate that gentle spirit to the battlefield to do hard and doughty service against the troublers of Israel. Yes, Sir, it is easy to criticize the soldier at war on the battlefield, but I am not by any means sure that criticism begotten in the calmness and quiet of converse or the study after the fight is over is competent to pronounce judgment upon the warrior. For my part, I thank God for the timely and important protest given by Mr. Spurgeon; and I cannot see what force there is in the oft-repeated remark that his act was a reflection upon the soundness of the whole of his brethren. I have been away during the heat of the war. I am not conscious in this writing of any motive actuating me save a deep interest in and regard for the great and vital truths of revelation, and an earnest desire to express my deep sympathy with Mr. Spurgeon in his defense of truths which are dearer than life itself. “This is no time for quiet in the sense of going over to the majority.
Error is rampant, and the time of crisis is at hand; should any suppose that Mr. Spurgeon has been worsted in this conflict, let them think this again, that it is easy to be deceived by appearances.
It is still through death to life, and through seeming defeat to divine victory. “HENRY VARLEY.”
The remarkable utterance of Dr. Dods, at the Presbyterian assembly, must surely arouse the faithful to a sense of the present danger. This is the sort of divine that the Baptist Society authorities invite to preach a special sermon. The more questionable a man’s theology becomes, the more sure is he to be asked to take part in the public displays of the denomination.
We can hardly think that the bulk of the people would have it so, but the rulers carry out their own devices.
The following resolution was prepared by a committee of the Kentucky Baptist Ministers’ Meeting, and unanimously adopted by the General Association of the Baptists of the State of Kentucky, a body comprising over 137,000 members, 960 ministers, and 1,300 churches:— “Resolved, that the ministers and other messengers of the General Association of the Baptists of the State of Kentucky, assembled in annual meeting at Eminence, in the said State, this 20th day of June, 1888, send Christian greeting to their esteemed brother, Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, assuring him of their thorough appreciation and approval of the faithful stand he has made in defense of important Scriptural truth in the recent ‘Down-Grade’ controversy; of their deep sympathy with him in his personal affliction, and in the attacks which his fidelity has invited; and of their earnest prayers that the God of all grace may long spare him to his great work as an earnest, eloquent, and faithful minister of Christ’s gospel, and a valiant defender of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
On the day previous, June 19, the Nova Scotia Western Baptist Association passed unanimously a resolution to the same effect as the above. For these brotherly actions we are deeply grateful. To stand alone for the truth is a lesson we are learning; but to find others with us is a joy we delight in.
It seems to be an amusement to certain papers to invent courses of action, and impute them to us. This will do no harm if nobody believes them.
When we make a move, it will not be done in the dark, and our friends shall not first learn it at the lips of opponents.
CURRENT RELIGIOUS PERILS. (SEPTEMBER 1888) THE following letter, which we find in a new volume of Joseph Cook’s Lectures, so nearly represents our views that we cannot withhold it from our readers at this solemn crisis. There is a manifest bracing up and returning to the old faith among many brethren; but their complicity with those who hold some one or other form of the Restoration delusion is shocking to contemplate. They may not be in error themselves, but they are in brotherly confederacy with those who are so. “From the Rev. E. K. Alden, D.D., Home Secretary of the American Board of Foreign Missions, Boston. “REV.JOSEPH COOK. “Dear Sir,—In response to your inquiry I would reply that, in my opinion, one of the religious perils of the hour is the failure of many good men to discern the peril. There is sometimes a drift toward error which is gradual and almost imperceptible, and yet may be so steady and strong that the trend of a man’s influence is toward error, although he is continuously advocating the truth. There are times when what a man omits to say is more effective in the wrong direction than are an his words in the right direction. If a person is known to hold a serious error, even though he may seldom or never directly advocate it, that fact that he is known to hold the error will possibly neutralize all his fervid utterances of the truth. This is particularly the case when the error is a popular current error, which needs to be steadily resisted by all good men. “Indeed, there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error. And the reason is, that the truths are advocated in the interests of error. For example, there was a time, as some of us well remember, when the constant reiteration of the importance of saving the National Union was the most deadly weapon in the interests of secession. Nothing is more common, as we are daily reminded, than loud declamation in behalf of liberty in the interests of the worst forms of thraldom. “So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error. Not that the error should always or often be definitely and directly opposed in a controversial manner, though this is sometimes inevitable; but that the appropriate timely truth best fitted to counteract, here and now, that particular error, should be vigorously presented. “To be more specific, the popular trend just now in certain localities, not a thousand miles from Boston, is toward the unscriptural and dangerous dogma that all men will be finally saved. “This error underlies a considerable part of the teaching and preaching of more than one religious denomination, and of more than one religious teacher whose instructions, in the main, are evangelical. But these very instructions, which emphasize the universality of the atonement, the universality of the offers of mercy, the Fatherhood of God, and the yearning of that Father’s heart toward all his children, ‘not willing that any should perish’— these instructions alone, silent as to the connected warning of the imminent peril of presuming on this superabounding divine grace, ignoring the divine justice and the certainty of the final doom of the wicked, become the persistent preaching of error in its most subtle and seductive form. Unless a person clearly discerns and strongly believes in the ultimate separation of the righteous and the wicked, in the ‘everlasting death’ as certainly as the ‘everlasting life,’ and is known so to believe, emphasizing this serious truth, as did our Lord and his apostles, in association with the precious truths centering in the riches of divine grace, presenting them both with the same tenderness, he will almost inevitably be a continuous teacher of dangerous error. “Herein lies the peril of the unscriptural teaching, even in a hypothetical form, of the possibility, for some, of gracious opportunity for repentance beyond death. The Word of God is so explicit in so many varied forms in declaring that ‘the righteous’ and ‘the wicked’ to whom it alludes are ‘the righteous’ and ‘the wicked’ whose characters are formed in the present life, and who will thus stand with unchanged characters in the ‘resurrection of the just and of the unjust,’ that the omission to declare this momentous truth and to use it as did our Lord himself to give urgency to his word, is a fatal omission, both in the instructions of a theological seminary and of a Christian pulpit, and will, almost without fail, involve the teaching of error under the guise, and even in the utterance, of precious truth. Here certainly is one of our ‘current religious perils.’ “Yours respectfully, “E. K.ALDEN. “Boston, March 21, 1887.”
NOTES. (SEPT. 1888) To many inquiring friends the editor would gratefully say that he is much better, though specially weak. Changing weather, with so much wet and cold, prevent a quick return to usual health. After a severe illness strength is slow in returning. Yet the work of the Lord has gone on with not less of blessing than in years past.
Hosts of American friends have been at the Tabernacle, and have greeted the preacher with loving sympathy. With these have come men of eminence, and plain lovers of the gospel belonging to all the denominations, bringing warm and tender words of sympathy and cheer.
God is very gracious, and sends consolation by the hands of those whose very manner adds sweetness to their words. It is hard to make Christian people understand that there is a Union of professed Christians, which receives into its fellowship persons of any creed, or no creed, so long as they have been baptized. It is not easy to believe that men professing to hold the truth of God will retain in their communion men whose views are far removed from what is understood to be the evangelical faith. We are not anxious that Christians of other lands should be assured of a fact which is so greatly to be deplored; but certainly it is to the most of them a great surprise.
Few who have spoken with us have failed to see that there is a tremendous current, both broad and deep, which is running counter to the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and to those fundamental truths which until lately have been considered vital to the Christian religion. The question now raised strikes at the root of all true religion. It is not so much which doctrine is Scriptural, but is there any inspired Scripture from which doctrine can be drawn with certainty? After dreaming and doting upon a future other than Scripture reveals, men now dream about Scripture itself. However, all this will have its day, and before long true hearts will turn from it with loathing.
We believe that God and his great future are on the side of the old faith, and we are content to wait, and see what he will do.
The Pastor and Church at the Tabernacle are now free from all hampering connections with Unions and Associations, but by no means without communion of the warmest kind with the Lord’s faithful people. We have no doubt that ways will be found in which all the benefits of fellowship will be enjoyed with those churches with which we can honestly and heartily unite. Of any movement our friends shall be informed. We hope they will believe nothing which the newspapers may insert, since in the absence of information they are apt to make guesses, and state them as facts. Our attitude is that of waiting for divine direction. Unbelief is in a hurry, faith can bide its time.
Mr. Henry Varley is doing grand service by his papers upon inspiration in Word and Work, in answer to Mr. Horton’s book. No doubt there will, as the struggle is intensified, be raised up other brave advocates for the eternal Word; but meanwhile our brother is doing the work in a thoroughly efficient manner. Although the policy of silence is again adopted by the Loose School in the matter of the “Down-Grade,” it is happily the case that it is impossible to apply the pitch-plaster to all mouths; there are yet men and papers which cannot be burked or bought. All our readers should see what Mr. Varley has written, and Baptists especially, since the author whom he criticizes is chosen by the Baptist Union to take a leading part at its autumnal session.
The prayers of the Lord’s people at the Tabernacle have been graciously heard in the restoration to us of our beloved brother and deacon, William Olney, after long suffering, borne with a cheerful patience which has been a lesson to us all. Long may he now be spared to the Lord’s work! His son, Mr. William Olney, Jr., continues his laborious service at Haddon Hall, and week by week we see persons, some from the poorest and most degraded districts, brought to Jesus. Week by week our numbers receive additions.
The College is not in session, for the men are having their vacation; the orphans are nearly all away; the seat-holders are most of them at the seaside; yet through the influx of strangers the crowds are even greater than usual, and many: feel the power of the Word, though as they mostly return to the country, we shall not have the home church thus increased.
The Lord is with us, and we magnify his name.
NOTES. (OCT. 1888) Every day affords more and more evidence that while many are true to their Lord, unbelief has sadly eaten into Congregational and Baptist churches. It is not the ministers only who have espoused the modern inventions; but in some instances where the pastor remains true to evangelical doctrine, the deacons and leading members have gone aside to novel theories. The inspiration of Holy Scripture in the sense of its being the infallible Word of God, is not held sincerely by all those who wish to appear evangelical. This is the most serious matter of all, since it removes the very foundations of faith. We do not bring hasty accusations, but know what we affirm; and those of whom we make the affirmation know that we speak the truth. The varied views of the future which now obtain are naturally linked in with other errors, or logically involve them. The door is open, and droves of falsehoods enter by it. Numbers of good brethren in different ways remain in fellowship with those who are undermining the gospel; and they talk of their conduct as though it were a loving course which the Lord will approve of in the day of his appearing. We cannot understand them. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians, and yet deny the Word of the Lord, and reject the fundamentals of the gospel, is to come out from among them. If it be said that efforts should be made to produce reform, we agree with the remark; but when you know that they will be useless, what is the use? Where the basis of association allows error, and almost invites it, and there is an evident determination not to alter that basis, nothing remains to be done inside, which can be of any radical service. The operation of an evangelical party within can only repress, and, perhaps, conceal, the evil for a time; but meanwhile, sin is committed by the compromise itself, and no permanently good result can follow. To stay in a community which fellowships all beliefs in the hope of setting matters right, is as though Abraham had stayed at Ur, or at Haran, in the hope of converting the household out of which he was called.
Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. If any body of believers had errorists among them, but were resolute to deal with them in the name of the Lord, all might come right; but confederacies founded upon the principle that all may enter, whatever views they hold, are based upon disloyalty to the truth of God. If truth is optional, error is justifiable. If some supposed “life” is to be all, and “truth” is to be thrust out of doors, then there is room for all except the believer in the doctrines which have been revealed by the Eternal Spirit.
Our present sorrowful protest is not a matter of this man or that, this error or that; but of principle. There either is something essential to a true faith—some truth which is to be believed; or else everything is left to each man’s taste. We believe in the first of these opinions, and hence we cannot dream of religious association with those who might on the second theory be acceptable. Those who are of our mind should, at all cost, act upon it.
The Lord give them decision, and wean them from all policy and trimming!
Our one sole aim is the preservation and spread of the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and we mourn that godly men should be parties to a system which is destructive of good, and only promotive of error. It is clear that, as a general rule, error by itself has not the power to maintain communities in a flourishing condition among Nonconformists. As a general fact, churches avowedly Unitarian, or anti-evangelical, gradually dwindle. The Old General Baptists, once rid of the evangelicals, made a rapid descent to their present moribund condition, while the evangelicals multiplied abundantly.
The plan of the enemy now is to lay the egg of error in the nest of our churches. It is hoped that among a people so tolerant of false doctrine as many Baptists and Congregationalists now are, this new doctrine will work secretly, and gain too strong a hold to be removed. The plan is a very crafty one, and seems likely to succeed. It is hard to get leaven out of dough, and easy to put it in. This leaven is already working. Our daring to unveil this deep design is inconvenient, and of course it brings upon our devoted head all manner of abuse. But that matters nothing so long as the plague is stayed. Oh, that those who are spiritually alive in the churches may look to this thing, and may the Lord himself baffle the adversary!
We are represented as wishing to force upon the churches a narrow creed.
Nothing was further from our mind. We do not consider that the demand for agreement to vital truths common to all Christians can be looked upon as a piece of sectarian bigotry. Here is a man, who is himself a Calvinist, who does not ask that a Union should draw up a Calvinistic creed, but only begs for one which will let the whole world know that brethren are associated as Christians, and that those who do not agree to the first principles of our faith will be intruders. Is this narrowness? If, after a basis is laid down, errorists do intrude, the case will be very different from what it is at present, and less of responsibility will lie upon the members of the community. It is mere cant to cry, “We are evangelical; we are all evangelical,” and yet decline to say what evangelical means. If men are really evangelical, they delight to spread as glad tidings the truths from which they take the name.
Waiting still for guidance, we begin to see our way in a measure, but implore prayer that every step may be of the Lord. (NOV. 1888) The following resolution of sympathy with us in our action in the “Down- Grade” controversy came to hand just too late for last month’s magazine.
We feel sure that our readers will be glad to see it, even now. It was unanimously passed at the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces of Canada—i.e. , Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island:— “Whereas the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon has for more than thirty years been known to the Christian world as a most devoted man of God, a noble defender of the faith, and a man greatly honored of God, in the wonderful success which has constantly attended his labors in the gospel, and in the many religious and philanthropic works he has originated, and in which he is still most earnestly engaged; and whereas he has felt it to be his duty of late to sever his connection with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, and also with the London Baptist Association, on account of the laxity of doctrine of some of the brethren, and the unwillingness on the part of the said societies to adopt such articles of faith as would commit the membership to orthodoxy, and have a tendency to check the ‘Down- Grade’ drift in the churches; therefore resolved that this Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, now in annual session, this twenty-fifth day of August, 1888, representing some forty-four thousand members of Baptist churches, take this opportunity to place on record the high esteem in which our honored brother, Pastor Spurgeon, is held by us; and we hereby express our hearty sympathy with him in his bold and unflinching contention for the truths of the gospel; and it is our earnest prayer to Almighty God that his faith may remain unshaken, and that he may long be spared to wield valiantly the sword of the Spirit, and that in the future, as in the past, God may continue to make the weapons of his warfare mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan, and the building up of the kingdom of our Lord and Savior in the world.”