Some Notable Sermons
VERY ONE OF THE PRINTED DISCOURSES of Charles Haddon Spurgeon has had an enormous sale, but there are some which have been especially notable from their matter or occasion, and have outstripped all others in circulation. One of the first to create an unusual demand was the sermon (No. 154) preached at the Crystal Palace, on the Fast Day proclaimed at the time of the Indian Mutiny, October 7th, 1857. C. H. Spurgeon was then a young man of twenty-three years of age, and the mere physical ordeal of addressing 23,654 persons was so great that the preacher afterwards slept from Wednesday night to Friday morning without a break. The Proclamation stated that the day was appointed "for a Solemn Fast, Humiliation and Prayer before Almighty God, in order to obtain pardon for our sins, and for imploring His blessing and assistance on our arms for the restoration of tranquillity in India"; and C. H. Spurgeon did not hesitate to denounce and call upon his congregation to give up the open sins of which the community was guilty. "I am inclined to think," he said, "that our class-sins are the most grievous. Behold this day the sins of the rich. How are the poor oppressed! How are the needy down-trodden! In many places the average wage of men is far below their value to their masters. In this age there is many a great man who looks upon his fellows as only stepping-stones to wealth. He builds a factory as he would make a cauldron. He is about to make a brew for his own wealth. Pitch him in! He is only a poor clerk, he can live on a hundred a year. Put him in! There is a poor timekeeper, he has a large family: it does not matter; a man can be had for less; in with him! Here are the tens, the hundreds and the thousands that must do the work. Put them in; heap the fire; boil the cauldron; stir them up; never mind their cries. The hire of the laborers kept back may go up to heaven: it does not matter, the millions of gold are safe. The law of demand and supply is with us, who is he that would interfere? Who shall dare to prevent the grinding of the faces of the poor? Cotton-lords and great masters ought to have power to do what they like with the people; ought they not? Ah! but ye great men of the earth, there is a God, and that God has said He executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. And yet the sempstress in her garret and yet the tailor in his den, and yet the artisan in his crowded factory, and yet the servants who earn your wealth, who have to groan under your oppression, shall get the ear of God and He will visit you. 'Hear ye the rod.' It is for this the rod falleth on you.
"Mark, again, the sins of merchants. Was there ever an age when the merchants of England had more fallen from their integrity? The mass of them, I believe, are honest to the core; but I do not know who among them are so. We can trust none in these lines. Ye heap up your companies and delude your myriads; ye gather the money of fools; ye scatter it to the winds of heaven, and when the poor call upon you ye tell them it is gone; but where? O, England, thou wast once true, upright, honest; men could not rightly call thee then 'Perfidious Albion;' but now, O, Britain, alas! for thee! Unless thou dost recover thyself who can trust thee? God will visit the nation for this, and it shall he seen that this alone is one of the things which God would have us hear when we hear the rod.
"There are many of you that are poor. I saw you smile when I spoke to the rich. I will have at you also. If we are to humble ourselves this day as a nation, ye have cause also to humble. Ah, nay God, what multitudes there are of men who deserve but little of their employers, for they are eyeservers, men-pleasers, and do not with singleness of heart serve the Lord. Were men better workmen their masters would be better. There are hundreds of you that are here today who are the best hands in all the world to prop up walls when you ought to be busy at your own workwho, when your time is bought and paid for, steal it for something else. And how many there are in what are called the lower ranksand God forgive the man that invented that word, for we are none of us lower than the other before the Judge of all the earthhow many are there that do not know what it is to look up to God and say, 'Though he has made me a servant I will discharge my duty, and I will serve my Master, and serve my God with all my might.' Many are the sins of the poor. Humble yourselves with the rich; bow your heads and weep for your iniquities; for these things God doth visit us and ye should hear the rod.
"It is impossible for me today to enter into all the sins of illiberality, of deceit, of bigotry, of lasciviousness, of carnality, of pride, of covetousness, and of laziness, which infest this land. I have tried to indicate some of the chief, and I pray God humble us all for them.
"And now, 'Hear ye the rod.' O Church of God, the rod has fallen and the church ought to hear it. I am afraid that it is the Church that has been the greatest sinner. Do I mean by 'the Church' that established by law? No, I mean the Christian Church as a body. We, I believe have been remiss in our duty; for many and many a year pulpits never condescended to men of low estate. Our ministers were great and haughty; they understood the polish of rhetoric, they had all the grandeur of logic; to the people they were blind guides and dumb dogs, for the people knew not what they said, neither did they regard them. The Churches themselves slumbered; they wrapped themselves in a shroud of orthodoxy and they slept right on, and whilst Satan was devouring the world and taking his prey, the Church sat still and said, 'Who is my neighbor?' and did not arouse herself to serve her God. I do hope that we have already seen the beginning of a revival. The last year has seen more preaching than any year since the days of the Apostles. We are stirring in ragged schools and in various efforts for doing good but still the Church is only half awake; I fear she still slumbers. O Church of God! awake! awake! awake! for verily, the rod has fallen for thy sake. 'Hear thou the rod, and him that hath appointed it!'"
The congregation, which listened with rapt attention, was greatly impressed by these solemn words, and for long after the fast day the discourse was in great demand, and even today it is often asked for.
The sermon, "Accidents not Punishments" (No. 408), preached on September 8th, 1861, after the collision in the Clayton tunnel on the Brighton Railway, has already been mentioned as the discourse a copy of which Dr. Livingstone carried with him to the heart of the African Continent. In this C. H. Spurgeon refuted what had hitherto been a popular and very general theological idea, that all disasters were sent as a judgment for special and gross forms of sin.
"It has been most absurdly stated," he declared, "that those who travel on the first day of the week and meet with an accident, ought to regard that accident as being a judgment from God upon them on account of their violating the Christian's day of worship. It has been stated, even by godly ministers, that the late deplorable collision should be looked upon as an exceedingly wonderful and remarkable visitation of the wrath of God against those unhappy persons who happened to be in the Clayton tunnel. Now, I enter my solemn protest against such an inference as that, not in my own name, but in the name of Him who is the Christian's Master and the Christian's Teacher. I say of those who were crushed in that tunnel, Suppose ye that they were sinners above all the other sinners? 'I tell you, nay, but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' Or, those who were killed last Monday, think ye, that they were sinners above all the sinners that were in London? 'I tell you, Nay; but, except ye repeat, ye shall all likewise perish.' Now, mark, I would not deny that there have been judgments of God upon particular persons for sin; sometimes, and I think but exceedingly rare, such things have occurred. Some of us have heard, in our experience, instances of men who have blasphemed God and defied Him to destroy them, who have suddenly fallen dead; and, in such cases, the punishment has so quickly followed the blasphemy that one could not help perceiving the hand of God in it. The man had wantonly asked for the judgment of God, his prayer was heard, and the judgment came. But in cases of accident such as that to which I refer and in cases of sudden and instant death, again I say, I enter my earnest protest against the foolish and ridiculous idea that those who thus perish are sinners above all the sinners who survive unharmed."
The preacher then went on to reason the matter out. "It is true," he said, "the wicked man sometimes falls dead in the street; but has not the minister fallen dead in the pulpit? It is true that a boat in which men were seeking their own pleasure on the Sunday has suddenly gone down; but is it not equally true that a ship, which contained none but godly men, who were bound upon an excursion to preach the Gospel, has gone down too? The visible providence of God has no respect of persons; and a storm may gather around the John Williams missionary trip, quite as well as around a vessel filled with riotous sinners. Why, do you not perceive that the providence of God has been, in fact, in its outward dealings, rather harder upon the good than upon the bad? For, did not Paul say, as he looked upon the miseries of the righteous in his day, 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable'? The path of righteousness has often conducted men to the rack, to the prison, to the gibbet, to the stake; while the road of sin has often led a man to empire, to dominion and to high esteem among his fellows. It is not true that in this world, God does, as a rule, and of necessity, punish men for sin and reward them for their good deeds; for, did not David say, 'I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree;' and did not this perplex the psalmist for a little season, until he went into the sanctuary of God, and then he understood their end?
"Will you allow me to remark that the supposition against which I am earnestly, contending, is a very cruel and unkind one? For if it were the case that all persons who thus meet with their death in an extraordinary and terrible manner were greater sinners than the rest, would it not be a crushing blow to bereaved survivors, and is it not ungenerous on our part to indulge the idea, unless we are compelled by unanswerable reasons to accept it as an awful truth? Now, I defy you to whisper it in the widow's ear. Go home to her and say, 'Your husband was a worse sinner than the rest of men, therefore he died.' You have not brutality enough for that. A little, unconscious infant, which had never sinned, though, doubtless, an inheritor of Adam's fall, is found crushed amidst the debris of the accident. Now think for a moment; what would be the infamous consequence of the supposition that those who perished were worse than others; you would have to make it out that this; unconscious infant was a worse sinner than many in the dens of infamy, whose lives are yet spared. Do you not perceive that the thing is radically false?" It is not surprising that this sermon has been of help and comfort of thousands in distress, and it has always had a considerably increased sale at times when great public disasters have occurred.
The sermon, preached on the occasion of the death of the Prince Consort, from the text, "Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?" (No. 426), was another of the discourses which had an exceptionally large sale at the time it was published, and which has continued to be in great demand from time to time as occasions, similar to that which called it forth, have occurred. The line which the preacher took in connection with the sad calamity was that God had done it and done it with a design, and in this fact he found comfort and consolation for the bereaved relatives.
"If God hath done it," he said, "for ever be put away all questions about its being right. It must be right. If any would reply, we would answer them in the curt phrase of Paul, 'Nay, that O man, who art thou that repliest against God? 'But to take him away and to remove, him just in the hour of the nation's perilcan this be right? Brethren it must be. He has died at the best hour; the affliction has come at the most fitting season. It would have been wrong that it should have been otherwise; it would neither have been wise nor kind that he should have been spared. And this I gather from the fact that God has taken him away; and, therefore, it must be wisest, best, kindest. Only say the same over all your losses. Though your dearest friend be removed, be hushed, be dumb with silence and answer not, because Thou didst it, even Thou O God, therefore we say, 'Thy will be done.' And this, too, shall be our best comfort. God hath done it. What! shall we weep for what God hath done? Shall we sorrow when the Master hath taken away what was his own? 'The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.' The gardener had a choice flower in his beds. One morning he missed it. He had tended it so carefully that he looked upon it with the affection of a father to a child, and he hastily ran through the garden and sought out one of the servants, for he thought surely an enemy had plucked it, and he said to him, 'Who plucked that rose? 'And the servant said, 'I saw the master walking through the garden early this morning when the sun was rising, and I saw him bear it away in his hand.' Then the that tended the rose said, 'It is well; let him be blessed; it was his own; for him I held it; for him I nursed it; and if he hath taken it, it is well.' So be it with your hearts. Feel that it is for the best that you have lost your friend or that your best relation has departed. God has done it. Be ye filled with comfort; for what God hath done can never be a proper argument for tears."
Another very notable sermon, not preached on any historic occasion, but circulating in its printed form to an enormous extent, is that already mentioned, "Supposing Him to be the Gardener." The text was St. John 20:15, and the leading thought brought out by the preacher was that the Church of God is the garden and the Lord Jesus Christ the gardener. Of all C. H. Spurgeon's discourses this is one of the most beautiful, both as to the matter and the language in which the thoughts are clothed.
"Supposing Him to be the gardener," he said, "we have here THE KEY TO MANY WONDERS in the garden of His church. The first wonder is that there should be a church at all in the world; that there should be a garden blooming in the midst of this sterile waste. Upon a hard and flinty rock the Lord has made the Eden of His church to grow. How came it to be herean oasis of life in a desert of death? How came faith in the midst of unbelief, and hope where all is servile fear, and love where hate abounds? 'Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.' Whence this being 'of God' where all beside is fast shut up in the devil? How came there to be a people for God, separated and sanctified, and consecrated, and ordained to bring forth fruit unto His name? Assuredly it could not have been so at all if the doing of it had been left to man. We understand its existence, 'supposing Him to be the gardener,' but nothing else can account for it. He can cause the fir tree to flourish instead of the thorn, and the myrtle instead of the briar; but no one else can accomplish such a change. The garden in which I sat was made on the bare face of the rock, and almost all the earth of which its terraces were composed had been brought up there, from the shore below, by hard labor, and so upon the rock a soil had been created. It was not by its own nature that the garden was found in such a place; but by skill and labor it had been formed: even so the Church of God has had to be constructed by the Lord Jesus, who is the author as well as the perfecter of His garden. Painfully, with wounded hands, has He built each terrace, and fashioned each bed, and planted each plant. All the flowers have had to be watered with His bloody sweat, and watched by His tearful eyes: the nail-prints in His hands, and the wound in His side are the tokens of what it cost Him to make a new Paradise. He has given His life for the life of every plant that is in the garden, and not one of them had been there on any other theory than 'supposing Him to be the Gardener.'"
After suggesting other wonders, all easily explained by "supposing Him to be the Gardener," the preacher continued: "Let your imaginations run along with mine while I say that 'supposing Him to be the Gardener,' should be A SPUR TO MANY DUTIES. One of the duties of a Christian is joy. That is a blessed religion which among its precepts commands men to be happy. When joy becomes a duty, who would wish to neglect it? Surely it must help every little plant to drink in the sunlight when it is whispered among the flowers that Jesus is the gardener. 'Oh,' you say, 'I am such a little plant; I do not grow well; I do not put forth so much leafage, nor are there so many flowers on me as on many round about me!' It is quite right that you should think little of yourself: perhaps to droop your head is a part of your beauty; many flowers had not been half so lovely if they had not practiced the art of hanging their heads. But 'supposing Him to be the Gardener,' then He is as much a gardener to you as He is to the most lordly palm in the whole domain. In the Mentone garden right before me grew the orange and the aloe, and others of the finer and more noticeable plants; but on a wall to my left grew common wallflowers and saxifrages, and tiny herbs such as we find on our own rocky places. Now, the gardener had cared for all of these, little as well as great; in fact, there were hundreds of specimens of the most insignificant growths all duly labeled and described. The smallest saxifrage could say, 'He is my gardener just as surely as he is the gardener of the Gloire de Dijon or Maréchal Niel.' Oh, feeble child of God, the Lord taketh care of you! Your heavenly Father feedeth ravens, and guides the flight of sparrows: should He not much more care for you, oh ye of little faith? Oh, little plants, you will grow rightly enough. Perhaps you are growing downward just now rather than upward. Remember that there are plants of which we value the underground root much more than we do the haulm above ground. Perhaps it is not yours to grow very fast; you may be a slow-growing shrub by nature, and you would not be healthy if you were to run to wood. Anyhow, be this your joy, you are in the garden of the Lord, and, 'supposing Him to be the gardener,' He will make the best of you. You cannot be in better hands."
Finally, the preacher gave a warning to the careless. "In this great congregation many are to the Church what weeds are to a garden. They are not planted by God; they are not growing under His nurture, they are bringing forth no fruit to His glory. My dear friends, I have tried often to get at you, to impress you, but I cannot. Take heed; for one of these days, 'supposing Him to be the gardener,' He will reach you, and you shall know what that word meaneth, 'Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.' Take heed to yourselves, I pray.
"Others among us are like the branches of the vine which bear no fruit. We have often spoken very sharply to these, speaking honest truth in unmistakable language, and yet we have not touched their consciences. Ah, but 'supposing Him to be the gardener,' He will fulfill that sentence: 'Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away.' He will get at you, if we cannot. Would God, ere this old year were quite dead, you would turn unto the Lord with full purpose of heart; so that instead of being a weed you might become a choice flower: that instead of a dry stick, you might be a sappy, fruit-bearing branch of the vine."
This discourse has been issued in its pulpit series and also in various pamphlet forms.
The two sermons suggested by the loss of the Princess Alice, "Divine Interpositions," and "An Anxious Inquiry for a Beloved Son" (Nos. 1432 and 1433), have had and still have a very great circulation although issued as a double number.
But no sermon preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon and published in the series of printed discourses, ever achieved such fame or attained such a great and continuous circulation as that which bore the title "Baptismal Regeneration." It was delivered on Sunday morning, June 5th, 1864, and formed No. 573 of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. The preacher himself had long been exercised about the matter with which he dealt, but on the memorable Sunday morning neither his "congregation," nor the outside world had any idea of what a bombshell was to be thrown.
The text of the sermon was St. Mark 16:15, 16, "And He said unto them, go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." After a few introductory words, the preacher reminded his hearers that the Apostles so wielded the sword of the Spirit as to put to flight all their foes. Never did they dream for a moment of adapting the Gospel to the tastes or prejudices of the people, but at once directly and boldly brought down with both hands the mighty sword upon the crown of opposing error. "This morning," he continued, and his congregation began to realize that a statement of unusual import was about to come," in the name of the Lord of Hosts, my Helper and Defense, I shall attempt to do the same; and if I should provoke some hostilityif I, through speaking what I believe to be the truth, lose the friendship of some and stir up the enmity of more, I cannot help it. The burden of the Lord is upon me and I must deliver my soul. I have been loth enough to undertake the work, but I am forced to it by an awful and overwhelming sense of solemn duty."
The preacher then declared that the great and growing error to be contended with throughout England was one in direct opposition to his text, namely, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, a doctrine which he maintained was plainly taught by the Established Church in its Prayer Book. "But," he continued, "I hear many good people exclaim 'there are many good clergymen in the Church who do not believe in baptismal regeneration.' To this my answer is prompt, 'Why, then, do they belong to a church which teaches that doctrine in the plainest terms?' and he went on to speak in somewhat firm language of the attitude of the evangelical clergy towards this dogma, and what he considered that attitude involved.
Naturally, on the publication of this vigorously worded sermon, the whole evangelical party in the Church of England was up in arms. Replies and refutations were preached and printed, not by the score, but literally by hundreds, and no complete collection of the pamphlets issued seems to exist. C. H. Spurgeon himself possessed ten stout volumes of tracts and sermons on the subject. A selection which the writer has been able to examine forms a volume between three and four inches in thickness. Some replies were academic in character and others were abusive; one, at least, was decorated with a colored diagram, and the majority seem to have vied with one another in appearing with "catchy" titles. A few of these chosen at random will give some idea of the varied character of the replies and counter replies. "An 'Honest' Evangelical Reading of the Prayer-Book. Doctrine on the Subject, being a pamphlet suggested by Mr. Spurgeon's sermon"; "An Exposure of the Fallacies and Misrepresentations in Mr. Spurgeon's Sermon"; "A Chart illustrative of the Doctrine of the Church of England on Baptism and the Divine Covenants, also an Explanatory Key and Notes, together with a full reply to the misrepresentations of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon"; "Regeneration and its Counterfeits"; "The False Regeneration"; "The Voice of the Church on Holy Baptism"; "The Popish Error of Baptismal Regeneration not the doctrine of the Church of England"; "The Corrector Corrected"; "What has Mr. Spurgeon Done? and By Whose Authority Has He Done It?"; "Spurgeon Right! and the Church of England Wrong! or, Believers' Baptism versus Baby Baptism"; "The Great Gun is Sounding! Clergymen Beware, or, a few words showing that Mr. C. H. Spurgeon is in the Light and the Evangelical Clergy in the Dark"; "Who's in Error? or, Baptists and Baptism"; "What is to be done with this Spurgeon? and, What Saith the Scriptures?"; "'Great is Diana, or, Mother Church and the Babes"; "The Rev. C. H. Spurgeon Settled"; "An Artful Fox Unearthed and Trapped"; "The Lambeth Gospel, or, Every Man His Own Savior"; "Curious Twistings: or, the Contortions and Distortions of the Rev. __________ in His Tract entitled, 'Mr. Spurgeon shown to be a Teacher of Baptismal Regeneration, Clerical Logic Illustrated"; "The Veil Removed and Truth Displayed"; "Vindication a Letter to the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon"; "Who Ought to be Baptized?"; "Regeneration and De-generation: a Pill for the Parsons and a Spur for Spurgeon"; "On Which Side is the Dishonesty?"; "The Spurgeon-Antidote"; "What Is It All About?" "Weighed in the Balances: The Rev. C. H. Spurgeon Self-Condemned"; "The Rev. C. H. Spurgeon Settled"; "Regeneration not Salvation"; "Regeneration: The Use and Abuse of a Word"; "The Evil-Speaking and Ignorance of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon"; "Clerical Shuffling or, the Acrobatic Feats of Mr. __________; "The Tables Turned. Mr. Spurgeon's Ignorance Wisdom, and His Critic's Wisdom Ignorance"; "Infant Baptism, Why Sneer At it?"
Some prominent men took part in the controversy, including Dean Goode, the Rev. Hugh Stowell, M.A., of Manchester, the Rev. Hugh Allen, D.D., and the Rev. Joseph Bardsley, M.A., on the Church of England side; and Dr. Brock, of Bloomsbury Chapel, Dr. Landels, of Regent's Park Chapel, and Dr. Hayeroft, of Bristol, on the Baptist side. For months the pamphlets followed one another from the Press, and whether their circulations were large or small, the original sermon of Mr. Spurgeon had sold in a few weeks by the hundred thousand. "It was delivered," the preacher declared, "with the full expectation that the sale of the sermons would receive very serious injury; in fact, I mentioned to one of the publishers that I was about to destroy it at a single blow, but that the blow must be struck, cost what it might, for the burden of the Lord lay heavy upon me and I must deliver my soul. I deliberately counted the cost and reckoned upon the loss of many an ardent friend and helper, and I expected the assaults of clever and angry foes. I was not mistaken in other respects; but in the matter of the sermons I was altogether out of my reckoning, for they increased greatly in sale at once. That fact was not in any degree to me a test of my action being right or wrong; I should have felt as well content in heart as I am now as to the rightness of my course had the publication ceased in consequence, but still it was satisfactory to find that though speaking out might lose a man some friends, it secured him many others; and if it overturned his influence in one direction, it was fully compensated elsewhere."
The exigencies of space forbid a further detailed reference to special discourses, but twelve of the most notable of C. H. Spurgeon's sermons have been bound up in a shilling volume, entitled "Twelve Memorable Sermons Preached on Remarkable Occasions." This book, of course, does not include the Baptismal Regeneration discourse, nor any sermon of a controversial character."