Building a Culture of Evangelism

By / Feb 20

Spurgeon’s vision for the church was of an army engaged in the same fight that he was in, namely, proclaiming the gospel and pushing back the dominion of Satan through the salvation of sinners. But how did Spurgeon mobilize his church for evangelism? How can we build a culture of evangelism in our churches? In one of his lectures to his pastoral students, entitled “How to Induce our People to Win Souls,” Spurgeon gives three basic principles for building a culture of evangelism: Patience, Pastoring, and Prayer.

Patience

He says to his students,

Do not expect to get in the first year of your pastorate, that result which is the reward of twenty years’ continuous toil in one place… I should certainly say to you, do not expect all this [i.e., a culture of evangelism] at least for some months after you settle down to work. Revivals, if they are genuine, do not always come the moment we whistle for them. Try and whistle for the wind, and see if it will come. The great rain was given in answer to Elijah’s prayers; but not even then the first time he prayed, and we must pray again, and again, and again, and at last the cloud will appear, and the showers out of the cloud. Wait awhile, work on, plod on, plead on, and in due time the blessing will be given, and you shall find that you have the church after your own ideal, but it will not come to you all at once.[1]

In giving us a “How To”, Spurgeon begins with patience. He says it could take many months. Or it could take twenty years. Either way we must be patient. Why? Because building a culture of evangelism is ultimately the Spirit’s work. He refers to it as a kind of revival, which means that it must be wrought by the Spirit, rather than by our pragmatic methods. We can’t manipulate our way to it. We can’t force it. No, we must look to God for it. That’s why we must be patient.

What so many of our people need in evangelism is not simply better skills or tools to evangelize (though such training can be helpful). Rather, what they need most is a heart set on fire for the gospel. That’s something only God can do through His Word, by His Spirit.

Patience flows out of a humble dependence on the Spirit. The truth is that church leaders are not able to “build a culture of evangelism.” God must do that in our people. Certainly, pastors must teach and disciple and pray, but at the end of the day, it is God who gives the spiritual growth. So, the first thing Spurgeon urged for in his young students was patience. And as you seek to engage your people in evangelism, don’t expect transformation overnight. There’s a lot of work to be done before the growth comes.

Pastoring

And yet, while we wait, we must work. That’s Spurgeon’s second instruction: pastoring, or the patient work of teaching, discipling, and equipping. In other words, there’s no place for passivity when it comes to building a culture of evangelism.

Your work, brethren, is to set your church on fire somehow. You may do it by speaking to the whole of the members, or you may do it by speaking to the few choice spirits, but you must do it somehow.[2]

As a preacher in the church, you have a weekly opportunity to address the whole congregation and this may go a long way in cultivating a culture of evangelism. As you prepare excellent, gospel-rich sermons, as you organize edifying, Christ-exalting gatherings, and as you urge your people to join you in the work of the gospel, the Lord can take those efforts and spark new life in the congregation.

Sometimes, the very best plan would be to call all the members of the church together, tell them what you would like to see, and plead earnestly with them that each one should become for God a soul-winner. Say to them, “I do not want to be your pastor simply that I may preach to you; but I long to see souls saved, and to see those who are saved seeking to win others for the Lord Jesus Christ…” That might succeed in arousing them.[3]

And yet, often, the people may be appreciative of your ministry and yet go on unchanged. In such a situation, Spurgeon urged his students to look for smaller contexts to shepherd their people. As a pastor, you have to figure out what works best for your people. There is no one-stop method to building a culture of evangelism. Spurgeon tells his students:

In order to secure this end of gathering around you a band of Christians who will themselves be soul-winners, I should recommend you not to go to work according to any set rule, for what would be right at one time might not be wise at another, and that which would be best for one place would not be so good elsewhere.[4]

His students were all members of Spurgeon’s church. They were eager to see God replicate the Metropolitan Tabernacle in some distant place. But Spurgeon warns them that what worked at the Tabernacle might not work in another context. There are guiding principles, but there is no formula for revival. Building a culture of evangelism will likely be a multi-pronged approach. It will require prayer. It will require knowing your people and understanding their specific context and challenges.

As pragmatically-minded Americans, we are always on the lookout for the latest plug-&-play program to inspire our people. We want immediate results. We want evident fruit right away. But Spurgeon advises, be willing to start small. Beyond the gatherings of the church, look for one or two to disciple.

There is usually some “choice young man” in each congregation; and as you notice deeper spirituality in him than in the rest of the members, you might say to him, “Will you come down to my house on such-and-such an evening that we may have a little prayer together?” You can gradually increase the number to two or three, godly young men if possible, or you may begin with some gracious matron, who perhaps lives nearer to God than any of the men, and whose prayers would help you more than theirs. Having secured their sympathy, you might say to them, “Now we will see if we cannot influence [others in] the whole church…”[5]

This is the role of the pastor: waiting and working, plodding and pleading, praying that God would multiple your efforts.

Prayer

While you patiently teach, you need to pray, not only on your own, but with your people. If you want to build a culture of evangelism in your church, rally your people to prayer. Spurgeon says to his students,

If I were you, I would make the prayer-meeting a special feature of my ministry; let it be such a prayer-meeting that there is not the like of it within seven thousand miles… Keep up the prayer meeting, whatever else flags; it is the great business evening of the week, the best service between Sabbaths; be you sure to make it so.[6]

Prayer is what God uses to shape the hearts of his people. Prayer is what God uses to lift our perspective from the world up to heaven.

Prayer and evangelism go hand in hand. You say you believe that salvation belongs to the Lord, but if you don’t pray alongside all your evangelistic efforts, then what that shows is you really believe salvation belongs to you. And if your people think that, no wonder they’re discouraged in their evangelism!

But if salvation belongs to the Lord, then we have every promise of God that the gospel is powerful to save even the worst of sinners. So cultivate confidence in God by giving yourself to prayer and leading your people in prayer. If your church doesn’t have a regular prayer meeting, then start one. If your pastor won’t start one, then begin one with others in the church.

Gather people to pray for the lost around you, for lost loved ones, for neighbors, for coworkers, for the nations. Pray that God would have mercy and would save. Pray that God would raise up workers for the field. And as your people pray, some will begin to wonder, “Might the Lord be willing to use even us?”

Then follow Paul’s example in Colossians 4, where he prays not only for the salvation of the lost, but for open doors for the gospel and for his own boldness and clarity to share the gospel. Pray the same for yourselves, and you’ll be amazed at how God answers those prayers. And as your people share the gospel, give them opportunities to share their stories, and continue to pray.

Let evangelistic prayer become the culture of your church. When A.T. Pierson preached for Spurgeon, he commented,

This Metropolitan Tabernacle is a house of prayer most emphatically… prayer is almost ceaselessly going up. When one meeting is not in progress, another one is… there are prayer meetings before preaching, and others after preaching… No marvel that Mr. Spurgeon’s preaching has been so blessed. He himself attributes it mainly to the prevailing prayers of his people.[7]

Conclusion

Whether you’re a pastor or a faithful church member, here’s a basic guide for building a culture of evangelism: Patience, Pastoring, Prayer. In other words, there is no magic formula. We pray. We teach. We wait on the Spirit. And knowing that God is faithful, we do not lose heart:

Anticipate that you will have to do it yourself and do it alone. And begin doing it alone: sow the seed, tramp up and down the field, always looking to the Lord of the harvest to bless your labour, and also looking forward to the time when through your efforts, under the divine blessing, instead of a plot of land that is covered with nettles or full of stones…  you shall have a well-tilled farm in which you may sow the seed to the best advantage, and on which you shall have a little army of fellow-labourers to aid you in the service. [8]


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner; Or, How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour. (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1895), 120, 122.

[2] Soul Winner, 124.

[3] Soul Winner, 122-123.

[4] Soul Winner, 122.

[5] Ibid., 123.

[6] Soul Winner, 125-126.

[7] Hannah Wyncoll, ed., Wonders of Grace: Original Testimonies of Converts during Spurgeon’s Early Years (London: The Wakeman Trust, 2016), 14-15.

[8] Soul Winner, 121-122.


This article was originally published at 9Marks.



Principles from Spurgeon’s Sermon Prep Process

By / Feb 1

Known as the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon preached thousands of sermons over forty years of pastoral ministry. But preaching was only one part of his ministry. He also pastored a church of 5,000+ members, led his elders and deacons, performed membership interviews, chaired church meetings, gave oversight to two orphanages and the Pastors’ College, and much, much more. So, when did he ever find time to prepare his sermons?

One answer is that Spurgeon never really stopped preparing. He was always thinking about his sermons, meditating on Scripture, on the lookout for good content, and, in general, working on his craft as a preacher. Spurgeon warned his students, “We ought to be always in training for text-getting and sermon-making . . . the leaf of your ministry will soon wither unless, like the blessed man in the first Psalm, you meditate in the law of the Lord both day and night . . . I have no belief in that ministry which ignores laborious preparation.”

In other words, sermon preparation has to do not only with a sermon manuscript, but also the preacher’s self. Spurgeon reminded his students that preachers are “our own tools, and therefore must keep ourselves in order.” This included not only cultivating the right skills and abilities, but also keeping one’s heart and soul in nearness to Christ and love for the lost. Such preparations did not begin and end in the study but marked the preacher’s entire life.

More specifically, however, Spurgeon did have a sermon preparation process that usually took place on Saturday evenings after 6:00 p.m. He once gave the following description of his process to his students:

Brethren, it is not easy for me to tell you precisely how I make my sermons. All through the week I am on the look-out for material that I can use on the Sabbath; but the actual work of arranging it is necessarily, left until Saturday evening, for every other moment is fully occupied in the Lord’s service. I have often said that my greatest difficulty is to fix my mind upon the particular texts which are to be the subjects of discourse, on the following day; or, to speak more correctly, to know what topics the Holy Spirit would have me bring before the congregation. As soon as any passage of Scripture really grips my heart and soul, I concentrate my whole attention upon it, look at the precise meaning of the original, closely examine the context so as to see the special aspect of the text in its surroundings, and roughly jot down all the thoughts that occur to me concerning the subject, leaving to a later period the orderly marshalling of them for presentation to my hearers.

When I have reached this point, I am often stopped by an obstacle which is only a trouble to those of us whose sermons are regularly printed. I turn to my own Bible, which contains a complete record of all my published discourses; and, looking at these I have preached upon the text, I find, perhaps, that the general run of thought is so similar to that which I have marked out, that I have to abandon the subject, and seek another. Happily, a text of Scripture is like a diamond with many facets, which sparkles and flashes; whichever way it is held, so that, although I may have already printed, several sermons upon a particular passage, there is still a fresh setting; possible for the priceless gem, and I can go forward with my work. I like next to see what others have to say about my text; and, as a rule, my experience is that, if its teaching is perfectly plain, the commentators, to a man, explain it at great length, whereas, with equal unanimity, they studiously avoid or evade the verses which Peter might have described as ‘things hard to be understood.’ I am very much obliged to them for leaving me so many nuts to crack; but I should have been just as grateful if they had made more use of their own theological teeth or nut-crackers. However, among the many who have written upon the Word, I generally find some who can at least help to throw a side light upon it; and when I have arrived at that part of my preparation, I am glad to call my dear wife to my assistance. She reads to me until I get a clear idea of the whole subject; and, gradually, I am guided to the best form of outline, which I copy out, on a half-sheet of notepaper, for use in the pulpit.[1]

Spurgeon did not intend this description of his sermon prep process to be prescriptive for his students. Indeed, he recognized that his process was influenced by his unique circumstances and abilities. While he was glad to share his approach, each preacher must figure out what works best for him. Still, from Spurgeon’s description, we can learn at least a few wise principles.

Prayerful Dependence on the Spirit

Week-by-week, Spurgeon selected a Scripture text from which he would preach. He found this to be “the greatest difficulty” of his preparations. This process involved not only careful study and pastoral consideration of his congregation’s needs, but he looked to the Spirit’s leading. He shared with his students, “I confess that I frequently sit hour after hour praying and waiting for a subject, and that this is the main part of my study.” But this was not a passive waiting. Even as he labored “in manipulating topics, ruminating upon points of doctrine, making skeletons out of verses,” he depended on the Spirit to guide him to a text.

Spurgeon did not forbid his students from planning a sermon series ahead of time and preaching through books of the Bible. But he warned them that a long series could end up being wearisome to a congregation. Part of the issue was that Spurgeon generally followed the Puritan model of preaching, which took one verse as its text and meditated on that text deeply. So, to preach through a book of the Bible one verse at a time could prove to be difficult, even for the most gifted of preachers.

Many preachers today plan out sermon series by simply preaching on longer passages through books of the Bible. While this presents many benefits, we must still learn the same sense of dependence on the Spirit as Spurgeon. Preachers must approach every Scripture text with the conviction that this is the word that God has for his people this week, praying “to know what topics the Holy Spirit would have me bring before the congregation” from that passage.

Rigorous, Personal Bible Study

After selecting a text, Spurgeon studied his text intensely, examining it in the original language, considering the surrounding context, and jotting down all his thoughts and reflections on the text. Having done that work, he then went back to see if he had already preached on this text and compared his notes to make sure there was not too much overlap. Spurgeon believed Scripture to be “like a diamond with many facets” and thus, he often preached multiple sermons on a single verse.

Spurgeon was remarkably original as a preacher of thousands of sermons. Some have accused Spurgeon of being open to plagiarizing other’s sermons, but that charge is ill-founded. It is true that Spurgeon read widely and drew from others’ insights, especially earlier in his preaching career. But the heart of Spurgeon’s sermon preparation was his original work and meditations on the text. He despised repeating himself, let alone another preacher.

Before preachers consult commentaries or even their own previous work on the text, they should aim to study the biblical text afresh, for themselves. The heart of our sermons must come from our personal meditations on the text, otherwise, our sermons may simply be the regurgitating of other people’s work. Such sermons based on other people’s insights will not be delivered with power. To be sure, Spurgeon was constantly studying the scriptures throughout his life, and his sermon prep certainly built on his ongoing personal Bible reading. Even so, in his sermon prep, Spurgeon examined and studied each sermon Scripture text anew, looking for new insights that the Spirit might illumine for him and his people.

Consulting Other Sources

Only after having studied the text for himself, Spurgeon consulted other sources, both academic commentaries and devotional writings. He found academic works less useful in his preparation. He consulted them particularly for difficulties in the text, but too often, commentators evaded those difficulties. More helpful were devotional works and sermons.

For this portion of his preparation, Spurgeon would often employ help from another. He would lay out select books from his library (commentaries, sermons, devotional works) dealing with his text, and his wife would read from those works, while Spurgeon reflected on what he heard. Susannah was always amazed at her husband’s knowledge of his library and cherished these times for her own spiritual growth.

While the heart of our sermons must be based on personal study and meditation, like Spurgeon, we would also do well to consult the insight that God has given to others in his word. The Spurgeon Library, located on the campus of Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO, is evidence of Spurgeon’s wide reading throughout church history and in the latest scholarship of his day. And yet, with so many books out there, Spurgeon also reminds us that we need to be selective. His library clearly shows that his preference was for the works of the Puritans, who combined theological depth with devotional warmth.

We should also note that Spurgeon’s sermon prep was not performed alone, but involved others, namely his wife. Often, the preacher will find greater clarity and insight as they involve not only other books, but other people in their sermon prep process. This might involve discussing biblical insights, illustrations, applications, and much more.

Preparing Your Notes

Finally, he took all he had studied, and he organized his sermon, writing down his thoughts onto a half-sheet of paper. Earlier in his preaching career, Spurgeon tended to write out his sermons in fuller outlines or even manuscripts. Some of the sermons found in the Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon series can span several pages. But as he grew more experienced, Spurgeon forced himself to preach more extemporaneously, reducing his sermon preparation to a simple outline.

This final step mattered because Spurgeon believed in the importance of well-arranged sermons. He taught his students that rather than simply letting truths fall at random from the pulpit, the sermon should proceed logically. “The thought must climb and ascend; one stair of teaching leading to another; one door of reasoning conducting to another, and the whole elevating the hearer to a chamber from whose windows truth is seen gleaming in the light of God.” Even though he only took an outline into the pulpit, it represented a disciplined process of preparation and prayer.

Whether a preacher uses an outline, or a manuscript will depend on one’s giftings, circumstances, and many other factors. Each preacher must figure out what works best for them. However, Spurgeon’s emphasis on a well-ordered sermon is exactly right. Whether outline or manuscript, the preacher must bring into the pulpit whatever will help them to deliver the message both with power, but also with clarity and order, so that the truth can be seen “gleaming in the light of God.”

Conclusion

Spurgeon was truly a one-of-a-kind preacher. Yet, what strikes me about Spurgeon’s sermon prep process is how similar it is to my own process, which I learned from other faithful preachers before me. To be sure, there are aspects of Spurgeon’s process that I would not dare to imitate. If I began to earnestly prepare at 6 PM on Saturdays, I would be in trouble! And yet, in his prayerful dependence upon God, careful meditation on Scripture, consulting of other sources, and ordering of his sermon outline, Spurgeon gives us basic principles that all pastors ought to follow.

Personally, I find the way Spurgeon forced himself to depend on the Spirit in the selection of a text the most challenging aspect of his process. I personally am not convinced that is the right practice for me or my congregation. But even if I believe that God has a message for his people out of a scheduled sermon text, how am I cultivating prayerful dependence on the Spirit in my preparation? How do I keep my sermon preparation from simply being a mechanical and academic process? As much as I may grow in my preaching, I pray that I will always remain in complete dependence on the Spirit’s work in my own heart and in that of my hearers.

As exceptional and gifted as Spurgeon was in his preaching, he understood that there were no shortcuts, but he gave himself to a diligent process of preparation week after week. So, pastor, go and do likewise. Give yourself to prayer, the study of God’s Word, and the preparation of faithful, excellent, gospel-rich sermons. And may the Lord use those labors for the blessing of his people.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published by Preaching Today.


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife, and His Private Secretary. Vol. 4(London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1900), 65-68.




His Table is For His Family: Spurgeon’s Convictions about the Lord’s Supper

By / Jan 25

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) approached the Lord’s Table with gladness and gravity–and called his flock at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London to do the same. Why did Spurgeon hold this ordinance in such high value? In examining six sermons dating from 1857 to 1882, Spurgeon maintained consistency in his teaching of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper as well as the warnings of approaching the Table wrongly. What does Spurgeon have to teach us about the Lord’s Supper today?

There are two biblical ordinances: Baptism & the Lord’s Supper

In his 1882 sermon “The Right Observance of the Lord’s Supper,” he pulled no punches:

We have no respect whatever for the ordinances of men in religion. Anything that is only invented by churches, or councils, is nothing whatever to us. We know of two ordinances instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ: the baptism of believers and the Lord’s Supper; and we utterly abhor and reject all pretended sacraments of every kind.[1]

The Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church held sway over a great many of the London population, much to Spurgeon’s dismay. So, on more than one occasion, Spurgeon sought to assuage the “ignorance of the signification of the observance.”[2]

Spurgeon taught his congregation to support all church activity and Christian life with the Scriptures–thus the foundation of his problem with the Anglican and Roman rites. Yet, even when these rites dominated the landscape during the Dark Ages, Spurgeon reminded his listeners that Christ’s true church had always met.

There always has been a Church of Christ since he founded it. In the darkest Popish days, Christ always had his little Church to observe this ordinance. In the catacombs at Rome, in the mountains of Bohemia, in the Vaudois valleys, in the wild glens of Scotland, and in almost every land, in the simple breaking of bread and the pouring out of wine believers still remembered Christ’s death, even though they met together at the peril of their lives.[3]

The ordinances are for Christians

Spurgeon also instructed his congregation that the Lord’s Supper does nothing to bring about their salvation. “The ordinance of the Lord’s supper is not meant for the conversion of sinners; it is not specially intended to lead men to salvation, but it is intended for those who are already saved, those who are converted.”[4] The gravity by which Spurgeon instructed his people to approach the table was motivated by Paul’s command to not approach the table in an unworthy manner (cf. 1 Cor 11:27). Spurgeon was protective over the souls that joined his church and entered the services of the Tabernacle.

It is not a converting ordinance, nor a saving ordinance; it is an establishing ordinance and a comforting ordinance for those who are saved. But it never was intended to save souls, neither is it adapted to that end; and if it be so misrepresented, it is apt rather to be a means of damning than of saving the soul, for he that so eats and drinks may, in very deed, be eating and drinking damnation to himself.[5]

One can understand why Spurgeon wanted to drive home this point. Those who seek to find their salvation in this ordinance would find their condemnation. Thus, when the apostle Paul warns of partaking in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11:27). “Yet this is no excuse for the ungodly persons venturing to come to the communion table, for they will be eating and drinking condemnation to themselves.”[6]

All through Spurgeon’s sermons on the Lord’s Supper, one theme rises above all: an examination of the participant’s heart. Spurgeon warned his listeners who were “mere professors and hypocrites” to stay away from the Master’s Table. “As in your dying day you shall remember your deeds of formality and hypocrisy, I beseech you, do not dare to touch that bread with unhallowed lip, nor sip that wine; take them not unless you feel that you have the Spirit within you, and are really united with the Lamb.”[7] In the same sermon, he goes on:

Remember, dear friends, that no recognition by the minister, no reception by the deacons or elders of a church, will excuse you for coming to the Lord’s table if, when you come, you are not a really converted person. It is true that you cannot come there unless the church itself consents to your coming; but the church takes upon itself none of the responsibility of your fitness; it says to you, “You may come to the table of communion; but if you have deceived us, on your own head be the sin; and if you are not what you profess to be, — true believers in Christ, — your unlawful observance of the ordinance must be accounted for, at the last great day, amongst the rest of your transgressions.” And I do now, most solemnly and earnestly, as the Pastor of this church, in the name and on behalf of this church, warn all men and women now about to draw nigh unto this table that, if they be not God’s children, and have no faith in Christ, they do stop before they, with sacrilegious hands, touch the elements of this sacred supper.[8]

Spurgeon rightly warns all who listen to refrain from taking the Supper apart from a genuine repentance and faith in Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is for a gathering of Christians

Spurgeon’s views may surprise some, especially considering his Reformed background. Spurgeon held strong convictions that Christians may observe the Lord’s Supper together at any place at any time. “Wherever two or three Christians are met together, there may they celebrate the supper of the Lord. It is as valid without a minister as with one, and just as really the Lord’s Supper though there be no ordained presbyter or learned Doctor of Divinity to preside at the table.[9]

In all avenues of faith, conversations arise as to where the Lord’s Supper takes place. While each church should determine its own practice, Spurgeon believes the main issue is the assembling of Christians, not the place. “We do not think that it is at all material where that supper is held. It is just as valid and helpful in your own private apartments, in your bedroom, or in your parlour, as it is in any place where Christians usually congregate.”[10]

Are there any other guidelines on when the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated? Apparently, “High Churchmen” resisted observing the Lord’s Supper in the evening, believing this should only take place in the morning services. While Spurgeon noted that others (that is, the low churchmen) “do not attach so much importance as some people do to the time when it is observed,” he goes on emphatically:

We are astonished that High Churchmen should be opposed to evening communion, for, if any definite time for partaking of it can be quoted from Scripture, it certainly is the evening. I should like to ask the Ritualists whether they can find any instance, either in holy or profane things, of a supper being eaten before breakfast, until they invented that absurd practice. There is no time that is more like the first occasion when the Master celebrated the ordinance with his disciples than is the evening of the day.[11]

Wryly, Spurgeon observed that they believed that Christians could only observe a supper in the morning. While Spurgeon does not mean that the Lord’s Supper could only be served in the evening, he rejects the notion of keeping this only for the morning. Instead, his emphasis is on the gathering together of Christians.

The Lord’s Supper should be connected to the membership and discipline of the Church

Spurgeon believed, “This supper is a most instructive ordinance for those who are saved; but those who are not born again, and are not, by grace, members of the Lord’s family, have no right here.”[12] For Spurgeon, you could partake of the Lord’s Supper if you are a member of the Kingdom of God through Christ’s work on the cross, not restricting this to the members of the Tabernacle.

Therefore, Spurgeon continually instructed his people to examine themselves each time the Table was opened, not to believe they were permitted simply due to their church membership status.

I can give no man a certificate which really entitles him to come to the communion table. In my office as pastor, it is my privilege to receive members into this church; but, by so doing, we never mean to imply that we thereby certify that they are really converted. That is a matter which must rest with each man; and his judgment of himself, if he is a wise man, will not be the opinion of his minister, but the verdict of his own conscience in the sight of God.[13]

For Spurgeon, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are interconnected ordinances, both typifying the reality of their new birth and life in Christ.

Baptism, the immersion of the believer in water, is the token of his death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. It sets forth the fellowship which he has with his Lord, as the apostle tells us: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him;” — not that the plunge into the water confers any grace upon the person who is baptized, but it is the type, the emblem, the instructive symbol of the new birth, which new birth consists in passing, by death and resurrection, into newness of life. You all know that we are only born once. A thing can only have one true beginning. Hence, baptism is never to be repeated. The other ordinance is the Lord’s Supper; and, as baptism sets forth, typifies, (mark you, nothing more than typifies,) and is the emblem of the new birth, so the Lord’s Supper is the emblem of the spiritual feeding of that new life.[14]

One should not come to the Table typifying new life without participating in this ordinance typifying the new birth. To ignore a clear command of Christ to participate in baptism serves as an indicator of your walk with Him and thus prevents you from coming to the Table. In reflecting on Acts 2:38, Spurgeon leaned in on those who call themselves disciples yet ignore the warnings of disobedience and apathy to His commands:

Now, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke thus plainly concerning one of the two ordinances which he instituted: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Yet we have met with a number of his professed followers who say, “Well, that baptism is not a saving ordinance.” Who said that it was? Would you attend to it if it were? Then, if you only mean to do what will pay you, your obedience will be selfish, and of small value. Are you really a disciple of Christ? It should be the delight of a disciple to do what his Master bids him, whether there is any visible benefit to him in it, or not. It is not for you or me, beloved, to question or cavil at anything which our Lord has commanded, but promptly to obey it.[15]

Conclusion

Spurgeon’s instructions to his congregation benefit us over a century later. In a day when conversations abound about the boundaries of the Lord’s Supper, Spurgeon provides clarity and conviction. May we all examine ourselves before God and others before taking the elements of the Table–a Table meant for family, the family of God!


[1]Spurgeon, “The Right Observance of the Lord’s Supper,” MTP 45 (1882).

[2]Ibid.

[3]Spurgeon, “The Object of the Lord’s Supper” MTP 51 (1876).

[4]Spurgeon, “Examination before Communion,” MTP 46 (1881).

[5]Spurgeon, “Fencing the Table,” MTP 50 (1876).

[6]“Examination before Communion.”

[7]Spurgeon, “Preparation Necessary for the Communion,” MTP 45 (1857).

[8]Ibid.

[9]Spurgeon, “The Lord’s Supper,” MTP 50 (1861).

[10]Spurgeon, “The Right Observance of the Lord’s Supper.”    

[11]Spurgeon, Ibid.

[12]Spurgeon, Ibid.

[13]Spurgeon, “Examination Before Communion.”

[14]Spurgeon, “Fencing the Table.”

[15]Spurgeon, “Examination Before Communion.”



Preaching Advice for Busy Pastors

By / Jan 18

C. H. Spurgeon, maybe more than any pastor, knew how busy pastoral ministry can be. In addition to preaching four times a week, he led his elders and deacons in caring for a church of five thousand. Together, they visited members, interviewed membership applicants, led prayer meetings, chaired congregational meetings, pursued non-attenders, and much more. Additionally, Spurgeon published a weekly sermon, wrote numerous books, edited a monthly magazine, served as president of The Pastors’ College, oversaw two orphanages, corresponded with hundreds weekly, planted churches, supported denominational efforts, and the list goes on. The scale of Spurgeon’s ministry in the 19th century remains unmatched. But the essence of his work wasn’t all that different from any pastor today: caring for members, leading worship gatherings, training church leaders, overseeing benevolence and evangelistic efforts, engaging in church associations, and, as with Spurgeon, the list just keeps going. To some extent, these are the kinds of things that will fill up every pastor’s task list.

And yet Spurgeon would say that the most important thing to which he gave himself week after week was the preaching of the Word. Spurgeon once said to his students,

Brethren, you and I must, as preachers, be always earnest in reference to our pulpit work. Here we must labor to attain the very highest degree of excellence. Often have I said to my brethren that the pulpit is the Thermopylae of Christendom: there the fight will be lost or won. To us ministers the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full vigor. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we are not earnest preachers.[1]

Just as the future of Greece depended on King Leonidas’ stand against the Persians, so the future of the church depends on the faithful and earnest preaching of the Word of God.

In other words, Spurgeon believed that every other ministry in the church, as important as they were, existed downstream from the pulpit. Rather than all church ministries existing independently of one another, with the corporate gathering simply being one more silo, Spurgeon envisioned the corporate gathering as the central ministry of the church (the “Thermopylae,” if you will). And in that corporate gathering, it is the Word of God preached (and sung and read and prayed) that gives life to God’s people and energizes all the ministries of the church. This vision of the power of God’s Word to revive God’s people drove Spurgeon’s commitment to preaching. Amid the busyness of pastoral ministry, here was the one thing that could not fail. No matter the pressures and responsibilities, for the sake of his people, he had to give himself to preaching excellent sermons.

What advice would Spurgeon give to busy pastors today regarding their preaching? How can we be faithful in this primary responsibility without neglecting other ministerial duties? Here are three ideas.

This would likely be the most important advice Spurgeon would give:

Maintain your walk with the Lord.

This would likely be the most important advice Spurgeon would give:

Too many preachers forget to serve God when they are out of the pulpit, their lives are negatively inconsistent. Abhor, dear brethren, the thought of being clockwork ministers who are not alive by abiding grace within, but are wound up by temporary influences; men who are only ministers for the time being, under the stress of the hour of ministering, but cease to be ministers when they descend the pulpit stairs. True ministers are always ministers.[2]

In other words, don’t separate your devotional life from your ministerial duties. Instead, understand that the Holy Spirit must guide your life not only when you are “on the clock” but also in your private life. This will mean giving yourself to daily Bible reading and prayer, even when there may not be a direct ministry responsibility attached. As Spurgeon reminded his students,

We are, in a certain sense, our own tools, and therefore must keep ourselves in order… books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service… my battle ax and weapons of war.[3]

One of the private ways Spurgeon kept himself sharp for ministry was by leading his household in family worship. Twice a day, morning and evening, he led his household in prayer, singing, and Scripture reading, offering brief teaching on the text. Even when on vacation, Spurgeon commented how family worship kept him tethered to the Word and trained for ministry. All of this provided a consistency of life that strengthened his preaching ministry.

Carve out time to prepare.

Spurgeon loved spending time with visitors and would regularly open his home to them on Saturdays. They would stay through dinner and family worship, but at 6 PM, Spurgeon would often playfully say, “Now, dear friends, I must bid you ‘Good-bye,’ and turn you out of this study; you know what number of chickens I have to scratch for, and I want to give them a good meal to-morrow.”[4] Spurgeon’s sermons tended to be delivered extemporaneously in their words. But in their biblical exegesis, theological considerations, devotional reflection, practical application, and homiletical arrangement, lay hours of intense meditation and preparation. Spurgeon warned his students, “I have no belief in that ministry which ignores laborious preparation.”[5]

To be sure, every pastor will need to figure out their sermon preparation schedule. Most pastors should not wait to begin their formal preparations on Saturday evening! Younger pastors may need to carve out two or three days. More experienced preachers may do just as well with ten hours over multiple days. Spurgeon did not recommend any one particular process. But the process that worked for him involved all the typical elements of every preacher’s preparation: prayer, personal Bible study, consulting external sources, and arranging an outline.[6]

Certainly, there will be interruptions in pastoral ministry. Spurgeon describes how “just as a sermon is shaping itself,” all kinds of people will drop by and insist on seeing the pastor. In our day, this can take the form of an urgent text message or repeated phone calls. This is where the elders can play an important role in helping to guard the pastor’s time by taking on these pastoral needs. Even so, there will be no way to make everyone happy. And yet, Spurgeon knew what had to be prioritized:

If we do not see every one, there will be such an outcry. All we can say is—they must cry, for we cannot neglect our Master’s business to play lackey to everybody who is moved by the powers of darkness to call us away from the word of God and prayer.[7]

Always be preparing.

Even though Spurgeon had a scheduled time in the week for sermon preparation, there was another sense in which he was always preparing. As Spurgeon met with people, as he led in family worship, read books and newspapers, and trained his students, he was always thinking about his sermon and looking for material he could use. He once said this to his students,

We ought to be always in training for text-getting and sermon-making. We should constantly preserve the holy activity of our minds. Woe unto the minister who dares to waste an hour… We have no leisure as ministers; we are never off duty, but are on our watchtowers day and night… The leaf of your ministry will soon wither unless, like the blessed man in the first Psalm, you meditate in the law of the Lord both day and night.[8]

The pressure of the weekly sermon should also cause the preacher to live in constant prayer for himself and his people. “If there be any man under heaven, who is compelled to carry out the precept — ‘Pray without ceasing,’ surely it is the Christian minister.”[9] Prayer does not begin on Saturday nights or a few minutes before our sermon. Instead, it is the posture of dependence that should characterize the life of the preacher.

Spurgeon refused to confine his ministry to his study, but he gave himself to the work of a pastor. But his pastoral work was not separate from preaching. Rather, in knowing his people – their struggles, questions, doubts, and suffering – Spurgeon was better equipped to preach and apply God’s Word to them. He modeled what he taught his students,

Take care, also, to be on most familiar terms with those whose souls are committed to your care. Stand in the stream and fish. Many preachers are utterly ignorant as to how the bulk of the people are living; they are at home among books, but quite at sea among men. What would you think of a botanist who seldom saw real flowers, or an astronomer who never spent a night with the stars?[10]

Conclusion

Commenting on her husband’s schedule, Susannah Spurgeon once declared, “Surely, there never was a busier life than his; not an atom more of sacred service could have been crowded into it.”[11] And yet, out of this busy life came the greatest preaching ministry of the modern era. Indeed, Spurgeon’s busy pastoral, evangelistic, and benevolent ministries were not disconnected from his preaching. In many ways, they contributed to his success as a preacher, as Spurgeon used all his experiences to shape himself and his preparation. All this was only possible as Spurgeon maintained his walk with the Lord, guarded his time, and made preaching part of his lifestyle.

So it is today, as pastors face a busy schedule, we must prioritize the preaching of the Word and give ourselves to preaching excellent, earnest, faithful sermons. Only then may we hope for God’s blessing upon our ministries.


A version of this article was first published on The Focused Pastor website.


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Second Series (London: Passmore Alabaster, 1883), 146.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, First Series (London: Passmore Alabaster, 1875), 13.

[3] Lectures, First Series, 1.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records by His Wife and His Private Secretary, Vol. IV. 1878-1892 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1900), 64.

[5] Lectures, First Series, 97.

[6] Autobiography, Vol. IV, 65-68.

[7] S&T 1882:424

[8] Lectures, First Series, 97.

[9] Lectures, First Series, 41.

[10] Lectures, Second Series, 160.

[11] Autobiography, Vol. IV, 89.



Learning to Write from Spurgeon

By / Jan 11

Young ministers would do well to remember that for purposes of teaching there are two fields of usefulness open to them, and that both deserve to be cultivated. The utterance of truth with the living voice is their main business, and for many reasons this deserves their chief attention; but the publishing of the same truth by means of the press is barely second in importance and should be used to the full measure of each man’s ability.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon urged preachers to employ the pulpit and the pen for useful purposes. His exhortation applies today as it did in 1871 when first issued. Listening to Spurgeon will help all who heed his counsel to write clearly, powerfully, and effectively.

 [Write], brother, not because it is easy but because it is worth doing.

Treatments of Spurgeon focus on his preaching more than his writing, and rightly so. He is remembered as the “Prince of Preachers” for a reason. His sermons were powerful, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, and were used by God to the saving of souls. But Spurgeon was an author before he was a preacher. Prior to 15 years old, he produced “papers” or “magazines” read mainly by family and a few locals at Colchester. At age 15, prior to his conversion, he penned an almost 300-page essay, Anti-Christ, and Her Brood; or, Popery Unmasked. This “essay” was written in November and December 1849—2 months, 300 pages. It was an amazing feat for anyone, more so for a teenager. Spurgeon’s essay foreshadowed an almost unprecedented publishing career that lay before him.

Spurgeon’s writing continued from ages 17 to 19 while pastor of Waterbeach Baptist Chapel (1851–1853). During his London years, 1854–1892, his literary output rivaled that of the greatest English writers from all of history. His printed sermons and books traveled around the globe and found their way to Russia, America, South Africa, Holland, France, and essentially everywhere else. It was common to find a copy of a Spurgeon sermon beside a Bible in pious homes worldwide.

Spurgeon discovered books as a boy and was unwilling to lay them aside for athletics or rabbit-tending. If his mother wanted him to ride to a shop with her, she had to first get his attention and then unshackle him from his books. During the years he lived with his grandparents, he sometimes ignored them when they cried out “Charles, Charles,” because he was hidden away reading books. He read Crusoe, Boswell, Brooks, Raleigh, Baxter, Bunyan, and more. He reviewed books, recommended books, and distributed books. It is impossible to understand Spurgeon apart from books. It was from his reading that his writing sprung.

What can we learn from Spurgeon about writing?

Writing is Hard Work

Spurgeon entertained no romantic notions about writing. Early in his career, he lamented, “Writing is the work of a slave.” His greater joy was talking out his thoughts, but he said, “It is poor drudgery to sit still and groan for thoughts and words without succeeding in obtaining them.” He mused, “Well may a man’s books be called his ‘works,’ for, if every mind were constituted as mine, it would be work indeed to produce a quarto volume.” On the other hand, he admitted to delighting in his pen, “I, at times, so enjoyed the meditation which my writing has induced, that I would not discontinue the labor were it ten times more irksome: and moreover, I have some hopes that it might yet be a pleasure to me to serve God with the pen as well as the lip.”

Little did Spurgeon know the extent to which he would serve God via his writings. From his pen arose 135 books, 63 volumes of sermons, plus other writings of various sorts: book reviews, articles, lectures, and tracts. Spurgeon became one of the most prolific English authors of all time. More than 130 years after his death, Spurgeon’s books are still sold in bookstores; his devotional, Morning and Evening, is especially popular.

A Sentence Might Reach the World

A book, tract, magazine, or printed sermon might travel the world and touch multitudes. It might also step into a time portal and reach people for hundreds or thousands of years into the future. Spurgeon believed in the global possibilities of writing.

“It is a surprising thought that what is written today in our study may in a few weeks be read beyond the Alleghanies, and before long may lift its voice at the Antipodes. And as space is thus overleaped, so also is time; for if the world should last another five hundred years, the author of an immortal sentence will continue still to speak from the glowing page.”

Writing has the possibility of doing good to the souls of men.

“The possibility of doing good to the souls of men is a grand incentive which needs no other to supplement it, and such a possibility beyond all question exists when warm-hearted thought is expressed in telling language, and scattered broadcast in type among the masses.”

What Advice Did Spurgeon Give to Writers?

Wait until you have something to write before you write.

Meditate over your themes, consider them carefully, and then take up the pen.

Practice what you write until you can express your meaning plainly and forcibly.

Take your time, he said, and “revise and revise.”

Aim at being interesting.

Love your readers well by providing them with interesting and provoking thoughts that spare them boredom.

Write under the impulse of a holy zeal, burning to accomplish a real and worthy end.

Write with passion and with purpose. Write to serve God and to help His people. Write out of a sense of calling. Write because you cannot not write. Write for your readers. Write for their eternal good.

Publish anywhere.

I think that Spurgeon would have been a fan of good blogging. He didn’t think that the minister should only aspire to be published by a high-powered publisher. His advice was to write for the paper, for magazines, and for other periodicals. Publish wherever you can.

Write less and write better. Easy writing is usually hard reading.

This was Spurgeon’s way of saying, “value quality over quantity.” Take your time, and let your thoughts steep like tea leaves beneath boiling water until your words are seasoned, favorable, and lively enough to be published. He reminds ministers that good writing is hard work.

If you have any power of the pen, cultivate it. Do your best every time you compose. Never offer to God that which cost you nothing.

Most ministers have some ability to write. Spurgeon said, “Cultivate it.” “Do your best every time you compose.” He wanted writers to see their work as an act of worship, an offering to God.

Read the great authors so that you may know what English is.

Herein is a primary way to cultivate good writing: read the masters. Learn from them, imitate them, and consider how they turn words and phrases. Ponder how they construct sentences and paragraphs. Grow your vocabulary through reading. The quality of your writing is directly connected with the quality of your reading.

Write in transparent words, such as bear your meaning upon their forefront, and let them be well chosen, correctly arranged, and attractively ordered.

Spurgeon had read plenty of convoluted sentences from well-intentioned authors. He urged ministers to write clearly. Clarity is facilitated by using “well chosen, correctly arranged, and attractively ordered” words and sentences.

Make up your mind to excel. Aim high, and evermore push on, believing that your best efforts should only be steppingstones to something better.

Determination, vision, repetition, and perseverance are essential writing qualities. Temptations to quit are frequent and powerful. Discouragement is ever at the door. There are always those who diminish writing as not “real work.” The mind may fall into depression, and the body slump beneath weariness. Press on!

Ask for a blessing on what you compose, and never pen a sentence you will on your dying bed desire to blot.

Spurgeon was a praying man—he brought all things, great and small, to God in prayer, typically in short spontaneous bursts of prayer. The author needs help from above to write well, wisely, accurately, and purposefully.

More important than your composition is your matter.

Spurgeon urged ministers: “Tell us something worth knowing when you write. It is folly to open your mouth merely to show your teeth. Have something to say or speak not at all: ink is better in the bottle than on the paper, if you have nothing to communicate. Instruct us, impress us, interest, and improve us, or at least try to do so. Try, brother, not because it is easy but because it is worth doing. Write until you can write; burn half a ton of paper in the attempt, it will be far better in the flames than at the printer’s; but labor on till you succeed.”

Conclusion

Should all ministers really write?

Spurgeon anticipated protests to his urging of ministers to write and to publish. He accepted such push-back. He had personally groaned beneath the mass of poor literature served to the populace. He was up to his “neck in a stagnant pool of printed dullness.” He said that he “almost caught a literary cramp,” He especially lamented much of the poetry sent to him, calling many poems “an everlasting ding-dong, ding-dong of commonplaces and pretty phrases, all meaning nothing at all.”  He criticized some sermons that were published. “The good man who issues them declares that he did it in deference to the wish of his hearers (a very common excuse, by the way). He might well have prayed, ‘Save me from my friends.’”

The nation, Spurgeon acknowledged, was “press-ridden,” and it groaned “beneath tons of nonsense and platitudes and needs no addition to the enormous burden.” “Use the pen,” Spurgeon advised, but do not abuse it in the myriad ways it was employed in his day. Away with nonsense, platitudes, empty poetry, and ill-thought-through sermons!

Nevertheless, Spurgeon’s advice to ministers was still, “Use the pen.”

(I might add here that for a minister to write well, it is important for his wife and his church to embrace him as a preacher and a writer and to embrace a vision of writing as an important and potentially powerful aspect of his ministry. A faithful pastor serves his church by writing well.)


Ray Rhodes, Jr. is the author of Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon and Yours, till Heaven; the Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon from Moody Publishers. He is presently working on a full biography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon for B&H Academic.



“The Glorious Work”: Spurgeon’s Letter to the First College Missionary

By / Jan 2

From the beginning, Spurgeon’s vision for the Pastors’ College was the training of pastors. But with the expansion of the British empire in the 19th century, along with advances in travel and communication, new opportunities for global missions arose. Spurgeon would never justify the violence and oppression of imperialism for the sake of missions. Still, he believed that churches in Britain were responsible for making the most of every opportunity to bring the gospel to previously unreached lands. As the Pastors’ College grew, he was thrilled to see in his students a passion not only for local evangelism and church planting but also global missions.

By the 1870s, the Pastors’ College Missionary Association was formed, and when sufficient funds were raised, they sent out their first missionary, Mr. Patrick, to North Africa. On the eve of his departure, Spurgeon wrote him the following letter,

Menton, Dec. 14

Dear Mr. Patrick,

I rejoice that the way is cleared for you going to North Africa. As a brother looking to our own funds for support, you are the first representative of the Foreign Mission of the College, and I am the more earnest that you should lead the way gloriously. I am sure from your personal character, and from your course in College that I may place unlimited confidence in you; and far more is my confidence in the Lord whom you and I unitedly serve with our whole hearts. HE will help you to play the man. A blend of zeal, patience, and wisdom will be needed in a mission so new, dealing with such a peculiar people. You believe that the gospel will meet the need of any creature in the form of man, whether Jew or Gentile, Mahometan or heathen. You will keep wholly and only to the cross. There hangs our hope, as well as the hope of those to whom we go. Hammer away with the old gospel; and let those who like it use the miserable wooden mallet of mere reason. The Lord will be with you. Take special care to be much with HIM. Without the means of grace, in a lone land, as you will probably be ere long, “give attention to reading” the one and only Book, and be often carried away to heaven on the wings of prayer and meditation.

Write us often that you may keep up the interest of the brethren, and of my constituency in the glorious work. Be of good courage while you are dumb in the language of the people, and feel the fire burning within, with the power to let its heat warm the people. Carry your daily worries to your Master and they will not be worries. Aspire to be another “Patrick,” – the apostle of North Africa, as he was of Ireland.

On your head may the Holy Spirit pour of the anointing oil, and may you often be constrained to sing as I do,

“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.”

God himself bless you.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

C. H. Spurgeon

The Pastors’ College did not have a special track for missionaries. Every student was trained in the same course of theology, Bible, church history, preaching, ecclesiology, and more. But Spurgeon understood that this would be the foundation for any minister of God’s Word, whether a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Even as Mr. Patrick worked at language learning and cultural adaptation in North Africa, what he needed most was to be grounded in “the old gospel,” remain earnest in his preaching and evangelism, and be “much with Him” in Bible reading and prayer. In observing Mr. Patrick as a student and member of his church, Spurgeon believed he was ready for this new “glorious work.” He was committed to drawing from all his resources (his “constituency”) to support him in the coming years.

For the next two decades, many more students would head out for the mission field, being sent not only by the College but also by the Baptist Missionary Society, American Baptist Missionary Union, and the China Inland Mission. The story of these missionaries has not yet been told, but as Spurgeon writes in his Autobiography, “they also have done… a work which ‘the day shall declare.’”



The Great Difference in the Two Advents of Christ

By / Dec 22

Spurgeon lived during a time when the doctrine of the incarnation was being challenged. With the growth of German higher criticism, the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture were increasingly being questioned. The translation of David Strauss’ The Life of Jesus into English in 1846 led many to adopt a rationalistic understanding of the Gospels, stripping it of its supernatural elements. For them, the incarnation was no longer the miraculous joining of the eternal Son of God with our humanity. Instead, it was simply mythical language pointing to the disciples’ high view of their rabbi. Even as Christmas grew in cultural popularity, its meaning was increasingly lost.

But Spurgeon would have none of this. Even as he led his church in celebrating Christmas, Spurgeon made sure that this was a celebration rooted in doctrine. They rejoiced in the arrival of the Son of God, the miracle of the incarnation for their salvation. Jesus was no ordinary man. He is the Word made flesh. And His first coming lays a claim on our lives because He is coming back again.

On his first Christmas Sunday at the newly-built Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861, Spurgeon drove this point home as he chose Hebrews 9:27-28 for his Christmas sermon text: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

His takeaway was this: to understand Christ’s midnight birth rightly, we must see it in the radiance of his second coming. Even as we adore the Savior-infant in the manger, we must recognize He is also the coming Judge and King. What difference would it make in our Christmas celebration if we kept both advents in view?

Consider, then, four ways his second coming will be different from his first.

“How different I say will be his coming.”

At first he came an infant of a span long; now he shall come— “In rainbow-wreath and clouds of storm,” the glorious one.

Then he entered into a manger, now he shall ascend his throne.

Then he sat upon a woman’s knees, and did hang upon a woman’s breast, now earth shall be at his feet and the whole universe shall hang upon his everlasting shoulders.

Then he appeared the infant, now the infinite.

Then he was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, now he comes to glory as the lightning from one end of heaven to the other.

A stable received him then; now the high arches of earth and heaven shall be too little for him.

Horned oxen were then his companions, but now the chariots of God which are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels, shall be at his right hand.

Then in poverty his parents were too glad to receive the offerings of gold and frankincense and myrrh; but now in splendor,

King of kings, and Lord of lords, all nations shall bow before him, and kings and princes shall pay homage at his feet. Still he shall need nothing at their hands, for he will be able to say, “If I were hungry I would not tell ye, for the cattle are mine upon a thousand hills.” “Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field.” “The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof.”

“There will be a most distinct and apparent difference in his person.”

He will be the same, so that we shall be able to recognize him as the Man of Nazareth, but O how changed!

Where now the carpenter’s smock? Royalty hath now assumed its purple.

Where now the toil-worn feet that needed to be washed after their long journeys of mercy? They are sandaled with light, they “are like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace.”

Where now the cry, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head?” Heaven is his throne; earth is his foot-stool.

Methinks in the night visions, I behold the day dawning. And to the Son of Man there is given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” Ah! who would think to recognize in the weary man and full of woes, the King eternal, immortal, invisible. Who would think that the humble man, despised and rejected, was the seed-corn out of which there should grow that full corn in the ear,

Christ all-glorious, before whom the angels veil their faces and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!” He is the same, but yet how changed!

Ye that despised him, will ye despise him now? Imagine the judgment-day has come, and let this vast audience represent the gathering of the last dreadful morning. Now ye who despised his cross, come forward and insult his throne! Now ye who said he was a mere man, come near and resist him, while he proves himself to be your Creator! Now, ye who said, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” say it now if you dare; repeat now if you dare your bold presumptuous defiance! What! are ye silent? Do you turn your backs and flee? Verily, verily, so was it said of you of old. They that hate him shall flee before him. His enemies shall lick the dust. They shall cry to the rocks to cover them, and to the hills to hide them from his face. How changed, I say, will he be in the appearance of his person.

But the difference will be more apparent in the treatment which he will then receive.

Alas, my Lord, thy reception on earth the first time was not such as would tempt thee here again. “All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they thrust out—the lip; they say, He trusted in God that he would deliver him, let him deliver him if he delighteth in him; I am become a reproach; the song of the drunkard, a by-word and a proverb.” “When we shall see him, there is no beauty in him that we should desire him.” This was the world’s opinion of God’s Anointed. So they did salute Jehovah’s Christ when he came the first time.

Blind world, open thine eyes while the thunder-claps of judgment make thee start up in terror and amazement, and look about thee. This is the man in whom thou couldst see no beauty darest thou say the same of him now? His eyes are like flames of fire, and out of his mouth goeth a two-edged sword; his head and his hair are white like wool, as white as snow, and his feet like much fine gold. How glorious now! How different now the world’s opinion of him! Bad men weep and wail because of him. Good men cry, “All hail! all hail! all hail!” and clap their hands, and bow their heads, and leap for joy. Around him an innumerable company of angels wait; cherubim and seraphim with glowing wheels attend at his feet, and ever unto him they continually, continually, continually do cry, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.”

Let us suppose again that the judgment-day has come, and let us challenge the world to treat the Savior as it did before. Now, then, crowds, come and drag him down, to hurl him from the hill headlong! Step forward, ye Pharisees, and tempt him, and try to entangle him in his words. Herodians, have ye no penny now, that ye may ask him a difficult question to entrap him? What, Sadducees, have ye no riddles left? Aha! aha! laugh at the Scribes and at the wise men; see how the wise Man of Nazareth hath confounded them all. See how the sufferer hath put to nought the persecutors! Come Judas, arch-traitor, sell him for thirty pieces of silver! Come and give him another kiss and play the traitor o’er again! Pilate, come forward and wash thy hands in innocency and say,” I am clear of the blood of this just person!”

See ye to it ye fathers of the Sanhedrim, wake from your long slumbers and say again, if ye dare, “This man blasphemeth.” Smite him on the cheek ye soldiers; buffet him again ye praetorians. Set him once more in the chair and spit into his face. Weave your thorn-crown and put it on his head, and put the reed into his right hand. What! have ye ne’er an old cloak to cast about his shoulders again? What, have ye no songs, no ribald jests, and is there not a man among you that dareth now to pluck his hair? No, see them how they flee! Their loins are loosed; the shields of the mighty have been cast to the winds. Their courage has failed them; the brave Romans have turned cowards, and the haughty bulls of Bashan have hastened away from their pastures. And now ye Jews cry, “Away with him,” now let his blood be on you and on your children. Now come forward ye ribald crew, and mock him as ye did upon the cross. Point to his wounds; jeer at his nakedness; mock ye his thirst; revile his prayer; stand ye and thrust out your tongues, and insult his agonies if ye dare. Ye did it once! ‘Tis the same person; do it over again.

But, no; they throw themselves upon their faces and there goeth up from the assembled mass a wail such as earth never heard before, not even in the day when Mizraim’s children felt the angel’s sword, and, weeping worse than ever than was known in Bochim, hotter tears than Rachel shed when she would not be comforted for her children. Weep on, ‘tis too late for your sorrow now. Oh! if there had been the tear of penitence before, there had not been the weeping of remorse now. Oh! if there had been the glancing of the eye of faith, there had not been the blasting and the scorching of your eyes with horrors that shall utterly consume you. Christ comes, I say, to be treated very differently from the treatment he received before.

“He will come again for a very different purpose.”

He came the first time with, “I delight to do thy will O God.” He comes a second time to claim the reward and to divide the spoil with the strong.

He came the first time with a sin-offering; that offering having been once made, there is no more sacrifice for sin. He comes the second time to administer righteousness.

He was righteous at his first coming, but it was the righteousness of allegiance. He shall be righteous at his second coming with the righteousness of supremacy.

He came to endure the penalty, he comes to procure the reward.

He came to serve, he comes to rule.

He came to open wide the door of grace, he comes to shut to the door.

He comes not to redeem but to judge; not to save but to pronounce the sentence; not to weep while he invites, but to smile while he rewards; not to tremble in heart while he proclaims grace, but to make others tremble while he proclaims their doom.

Oh Jesu! how great the difference between thy first and thy second Advent!


Read the full sermon here.



Spurgeon’s Heart-Knowledge of God: The Necessity of This Knowledge (III of V)

By / Oct 30

From a sermon delivered on December 6th, 1874, by C.H. Spurgeon, published in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, No. 1206, Pgs. 836-850.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God…” – Jeremiah 24:7

See Part I here and Part II here.

Introduction

Why is it necessary for man to have a heart-knowledge of God? Spurgeon writes, “The knowledge of God is at once the beginning and the end of wisdom.”[1] In other words, without a right relationship with God, what is perceived as truth becomes distorted. In knowing God, however, all matters of life are placed into their rightful order and perspective. When considering the necessity of knowing God, there are two key points addressed by Spurgeon. First, this knowledge is necessary for all other true knowledge, and second, this knowledge is necessary for man to have a spiritual life. It is in knowing God that we can distinguish truth from error and discover the One through whom any meaningful spiritual life may be found.

Knowing God and All True Knowledge

Having a heart-knowledge of God is necessary because truth in all matters of life is given by his hand. As is commonly paraphrased from Augustine, “All truth is God’s truth.” God is the origin of truth in its fullest and purest form and the absolute standard by which all other truth is to be measured. Scripturally, we see that Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6), God’s word is truth (John 17:17), God does not lie (Num. 23:19), and He does not tempt anyone (James 1:13). Any truth to be found is of God. Knowledge, outside of knowing God, however, can have consequences. Spurgeon writes, “We must know God, or our other knowledge may be dangerous to others, and certainly will be hurtful to ourselves; it will puff us up, or load us with responsibilities which we shall not be able to meet.”[2] Outside of a right knowledge of God, what we perceive to be truth can, in reality, be far from it. “For the highest and most practical purposes, without the knowledge of God, we abide in utter ignorance.”[3] Therefore, the knowledge of God is necessary for a right understanding of truth in all matters of life. Knowing God doesn’t mean that our knowledge becomes infallible. Rather, the Christian worldview is the only one that provides a right standard of truth and a right perspective of the world. This can only be found through having a heart to know God.

“To know God is a needful preparation for every other true knowledge, because the Lord is the center of the universe, the basis, the pillar, the essential force, the all in all, the fullness of all things. Not to know God is as if a student should attempt to construct a system of astronomy and be altogether ignorant of the sun, or a mariner should be a stranger to the sea, or a husbandman should not know the existence of seeds. The place which God occupies must be settled in our minds or we shall have no arrangement in our knowledge, and our science will be nothing but a conglomeration of truth and error.”[4]

Knowing God and the Spiritual Life

Next, Spurgeon leads us to see that a heart-knowledge of God is necessary for man to have a spiritual life. He raises the question, “That this knowledge of God is necessary is clear, for how could it be possible for a man to have spiritual life and yet not to know God?”[5] The idea of being spiritual but not having that spirituality rooted in God seems to be increasingly prevalent in our day. But this idea was not foreign in Spurgeon’s day. It has always been common for people to refer to themselves as being spiritual but grounding that spirituality in their imagination. However, unless one’s spirituality is rooted in the one true God, it will always fall short in every respect and carry with it no eternal significance. John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” A spiritual life only leads to eternal life if it knows Christ and the only true God. Further, Spurgeon writes, “The knowledge of God is an absolute and necessary concomitant of the spiritual life, without which we cannot see or enter into the kingdom of heaven.”[6] Given a heart-knowledge of God by the Spirit, man has all that is necessary in Christ to live eternally with the Father in Heaven. God must be the one in whom our spirituality is founded. 

While this knowledge is necessary for eternal life, it is not without practical application in man’s daily life. A man who lives his life apart from God is prone to wander, but a man whose life is lived under Christ’s Lordship finds straight and well-lit paths for himself. As Solomon writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) In knowing God, man grows to know himself better. He can recognize how far off he is from the perfect standard that has been set before him in Christ and how dependent on God he must be to follow it. Spurgeon puts it this way,

“I venture to say that no man rightly knows himself till he knows his God, because it is by the light and purity of God that we see our own darkness and sinfulness. There must be a perfect model before us before we can discern our own departures from perfection. You must have a standard by which to weigh yourself or you cannot tell whether you are wanting or no: God is the standard, and until a man knows the standard he does not know how far he himself has fallen short of it.”[7]

Concluding Remarks

For man to experience any lasting peace, he must know the God by Whom he was created. “There is no peace in the heart while God is unknown. He is the God of peace, and there can be no peace till the soul knows him.”[8] Through knowing God, our understanding of truth is solidly grounded, both in its source and the standard by which it is measured. Given a new heart, man is enabled by the Spirit to distinguish truth from error and follow the straight path in life into eternity. Ultimately, the knowledge of God is necessary for man to have a spiritual life of any significance, and he is the only one in whom eternal life may be found. Has the necessity of the heart-knowledge of God become clear in your life?


[1] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 843.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 843.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 843.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 843.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 844.

[6] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 844.

[7] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 843.

[8] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 844.


Jaron Button is a Th.M. student at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO. He serves as a Research Assistant for Dr. Chang and The Spurgeon Center, and as Corporal for Midwestern Seminary’s campus security. He is married to Tiffany and together they are members of Northtown Trinity Church in North Kansas City, MO.



Acta Non Verba

By / Oct 9

This article comes from the January 1873 edition of The Sword and The Trowel magazine.

Introduction

Christians are not to just be hearers of the word but doers. From Spurgeon’s perspective, to love the Word of God is to do and live the Word of God. “Acta Non Verba,” by C.H. Spurgeon, laments the Christian’s lack of motivation for Christlike service. As Spurgeon says, those who “teach the ignorant, feed the hungry, and reclaim the lost,” are practicing faithful Christlike service. The church’s need does not lay at the feet of men with eloquent speech but of those who are affected by the gospel and “live it.” “ACTA NON VERBA,”—Deeds not Words.

Acta Non Verba

A CHURCH, in the United States, lately advertised for a minister, and stated that, having been for some years over done with eloquence, they desired a pastor who would preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ: there are churches on this side of the Atlantic, sickened with essays and “intellectual treats,” whose aspirations are much of the same kind. Fine language amuses the ear, as the tinkling of their little bells pleases the continental coach-horses, but it cannot satisfy the soul any more than the aforesaid tintinabulations can supply the place of corn and hay. The art of arranging words, and balancing sentences, is a mental jugglery, as astonishing when perfectly practiced, as the feats of the Chinese or Japanese artistes who just lately have charmed vast audiences at the Crystal Palace; but cui bono? what is the good of it, and who is the better for it? Who was ever convinced of sin by an oratorical flourish? What heart was led to Jesus, and to joy and peace in believing, by a fine passage resplendent with all the graces of diction? What chaff is to the wheat, and dross to gold, that is the excellence of human speech to the simplicity of the word of God. For awhile fascinated by the siren voice of vain philosophy and affected culture, many of the churches have drawn perilously near to the rocks of heresy and doubt, but divine grace is visiting them, and they will shake off the spell. Everywhere there is a cry for the gospel, for men who will preach it in the love of it, for ministers who will live it, and inoculate others with its life: the church is growing sick of essayists, and asks for men of God. She is weary of word-spinners, and pretenders to deep thought, and she cries for men full of the Holy Spirit, who are lovers of the word and not speakers only. Soul-winners will soon be in demand, and your genteel essayists will have to carry their dry goods to another market. Sane men do not need fiddlers, while the life-boat is being manned to save yonder perishing ones from the devouring deep.

The intensely practical character of Christianity might be inferred from the life of its founder. In Jesus we see no display, no aiming at effect, nothing spoken or done to decorate or ornament the simplicity of his daily life. True, he was a prophet, mighty in words as well as in deeds; but his words were downright and direct, winged with a purpose, and never uttered for speaking’s sake. Nobody ever looks at Jesus as an orator to be compared with Cicero. “Never man spake like this man.” He was not of the schools. No graver’s tool had passed over his eloquence. In his presence Demosthenes is seen to be a statue, carved with great skill, and the very counterfeit of life; but Jesus is life itself,—not art’s sublimest fac simile of nature, but the living truth. Jesus, whether speaking or acting, was still practical. His words were but the wings of his deeds. He went about, not discoursing upon benevolence, but “doing good;” he itinerated not to stir up a missionary spirit, but “to preach glad-tidings to the poor.” Where others theorized he wrought, where they planned he achieved, where they despaired he triumphed. Compared with him, our existence is a mere windbag; his life was solid essential action, and ours a hazy dream, an unsubstantial would-be which yet is not. Most blessed Son of the Highest, thou who workest evermore, teach us also how to begin to live, ere we have stumbled into our graves while prating about purposes and resolves!

The first champions of the cross were also men in whom the truth displayed itself in deeds rather than in words. Paul’s roll of labors and of sufferings would contrast strangely with the diary of a reader of pretty little sermonettes; or, for the matter of that, with the biography of the most zealous among us. The apostles were intensely active, rather than intellectually refined; they made no pretense to be philosophers, but thought it sufficient to be servants of Jesus Christ. Their hearers remembered them, not because they had melodiously warbled sweet nothings into their ears; but because they spoke in the demonstration of the Spirit and in the power of God. They were no mystics, but workmen; not elocutionists, but laborers. We track them by the cities which they evangelized, the churches which they founded, the tribes which they converted to Christ. By some means or other, they came to grapple with the world hand to hand, whereas the good men of these times do anything but that: they tell us what was done of old, what should be done now, and what will be done in the millenium, but they themselves mingle not in the fray. Where are the heroic combats of the first ages of the faith? Where hear we the din of real fighting? We see shaking of fists, feints, and challengings in abundance, but of downright blows there is a lamentable scarcity; the modern battle of church and world is too frequently a mere stage imitation, a sham fight of the most wretched order. See the combatants of those days—a whole-souled fight was theirs. The world, like a veteran gladiator, defied the young combatant with fierce terms of hate, and gazed upon him with tiger-like ferocity, determined to wash his hands in the intruder’s blood; while the church quailed not in the presence of her savage opponent, but avowed her determination to make no terms with sin, and accept no truce with idolatry. They meant fighting, and they fought! A divine of the modern school is of opinion that the lines have faded considerably between what is known as the church and the world, arising from a mutual movement towards each other; we cannot look upon this fact with the complacency which he manifests, but we are compelled to observe and lament it. Many professors play at being Christians; they are not real in their church-membership, not in very deed separate from sinners, or devoted to the service of God; hence the world has no care to oppose them, and leaves them utterly ignorant of the very meaning of the word “persecution.” Of course, if we never rebuke the world’s sin, nor bear witness against its follies, it will have no cause of offense, and will leave us unassailed. The apostles’ blows were laid on with a will, and left their impress where they fell. Fussy officials they were not; pompous dignitaries they could not be; but real workmen of the Lord they evidently were; hence their power under God to move their age, and all succeeding ages.

The marks by which, according to the Scriptures, genuine believers are to be known, are very matter-of-fact tokens. “By their fruits shall ye know them,” is a pretty plain intimation that no amount of profession or religious talk can evidence godliness, if holy actions be absent. At the last great day, the blessed of the Father are not represented as having advocated the relief of the poor, but as having actually fed the hungry. No mention is made of writers upon the inspection of gaols, or the suppression of mendacity; but a hearty word of praise is given to those who visited the prisoner and gave drink to the thirsty. The main point seems to have been the real and actual doing of good; whatever went with it is cast into the scale without mention, as being comparatively insignificant. True faith proves itself not by its boastings, but by its effect upon the life of its possessor.

Here is the bone of contention which the earnest man will have with himself. We know what we ought to be, but are we all that? Our neighbors perish for lack of the gospel, but do we carry it to them? The poor swarm around us, in what measure do we feed them? They would be well enough off if good intentions and excellent suggestions could clothe and feed them, but as it is, they derive small benefit from us. To know how to do good, and to leave it undone, is no small sin. Accountability grows with the amount of information. Mountains of lead ought to press down consciences which now lie at ease in the bosoms of men of great powers, who have eloquently proclaimed duties which they do not touch with one of their fingers; nor much less should be the discomfort of those who have again and again resolved upon duties which they have never yet performed. They own their obligations to the poor, but no orphan is fed by their help: they lament the ignorance of the people, but no ministry is aided by their gifts; they long to see zealous evangelists sent forth, but no student is succored by their bounty. Alas! for the piety which ends in feelings and words! It is vain as the foam of the sea!

Everywhere the evil is the same. Saying over-rides doing. One of the most evident weaknesses of most religious societies is a lack of practical common sense. They are great in red tape, rich in committees, and positively gorgeous with presidents and vice-presidents, and secretaries, and honorary secretaries, and minute secretaries, etc., etc.; but what comes of it all? We behold a fine display of wooden cannon and pasteboard soldiery, but conquests there are none. There will be a sub-committee on Tuesday, and surely something will come of it; or, if not, the quarterly board-meeting will doubtless work wonders:—no, there will be cackling and cackling, but of eggs none—or addled. In many of our denominational conferences resolutions are picked over word by word, as if every syllable might conceal a heresy; amendments are moved, seconded, re-amended, fought for valorously, or withdrawn; hours are spent, and lung force without stint, and what comes of the parturition of the mountain? Has the pitiful mouseling strength enough to crawl across the floor of the assembly? If any holy project needs putting out of the world in a legal fashion, so that no charge of willful murder shalt be laid against any one of its destroyers, consign it to a committee: it will have every care and loving attention, and the soothing syrup will be of the most excellent quality. If, perchance, the thing of beauty remain among us, it will be a joy for ever; never viciously fanatical, or vehemently enthusiastic, but, clothed in a regulation strait-waistcoat, its life will be spent within those sacred bounds which officialism is inspired to prescribe. If it be asked to which or what society we refer, our reply must be, “Let every dog follow its own master:” to some more, and to some less, our strictures apply. In general, a society is a creature of the imagination, a group of shades impalpable, a collection of names without persons; if its business be well worked, the credit is due to one or two worthy men, who are, in fact, the society; if it be badly managed, it is because it is nobody’s business, being generally understood to be everybody’s. The fault does not lie in the principle of association—which is excellent—but in the everlasting overlaying of the hand by the jaw: the mistaking words for actions, speeches for service. A dozen or two General Grants, eloquently silent, would form a fine board of management; men who can give, and work, and pray, are worth a hundred times as much as those who can compose resolutions, cavil over expressions, move the previous question, discuss and re-discuss, till all is blue-moulded or green with verdigris. Not that we would kill off the talkers, we are not intent upon signing our own death-warrant; but a little gentle choking of those who will neither be quiet nor practically helpful, we humbly venture to prescribe. The fact is, we don’t get at the work before us. The drowning heathen lies at the bottom of the pond, and our drags do not touch the body, much less fetch it to shore. The ignorant masses around us glide from our fingers like slippery eels, we have not learned the nack of holding them. We seem to be bobbing after our great objects like boys trying to bite at apples which swim in a tub of water. We are planning, suggesting, arranging; but when are we going to begin? For scores of years we have been tuning up: when will the music commence? So much time is spent in chopping the chaff, and bruising the oats, that poor Bucephalus is getting lean as Rosinante.

Gentle reader, has no self-accusing thought crossed your mind while trying to keep yourself awake over these lines? No; you are really active, and by no means loquacious. It is well! All honor to you! But where do you live, and of what mother were you born, and what is your age next birthday? The writer inquires eagerly, and will be glad if you should turn out to be one of a numerous family. Our own confession tells no such flattering story. We have, by God’s grace, done something, but how little! It is as nothing! Compared with high resolves, and day-dreams, and proposals, what are our achievements? Tears are the fittest comments upon our life’s review. We long to begin to live. We have loitered long, like too many more, and work undone accuses and condemns us. Shall we write about it, or from the pulpit pour out a verbal plaint which will die away with its own echo? No; but if God will help us we will try to glorify him, and publish his salvation. To lift up Christ is real work; to cry “Behold the Lamb!” is practical ministry. To teach the ignorant, to feed the hungry, to reclaim the lost, this is Christlike service. What is all else, if we serve not the Lord Christ?

For the year 1873 we suggest the motto, “ACTA NON VERBA,”—Deeds not Words.



Spurgeon’s Heart-Knowledge of God: The Seat of This Knowledge (II of V) 

By / Oct 2

From a sermon delivered on December 6th, 1874, by C.H. Spurgeon, published in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, No. 1206, Pgs. 836-850.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God…” – Jeremiah 24:7

See Part I here and Part III here.

Introduction

Though natural revelation is insufficient to bring us to a saving knowledge of himself, God, in his plan of redemption, has established an even more glorious way: the regenerating work of the Spirit made possible through the sacrificial work of Christ. Spurgeon believed that this saving knowledge of God rested in the heart. However, man’s heart has been spiritually blinded by his sin. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must shine into his heart, renewing within him a right knowledge of God. This is the permanent work of regeneration, whereby the Spirit changes the heart of the believer, provides him with the desire to call upon the Lord, and creates a deep affection for the Lord. But how can we know if we have experienced this work of the Spirit? In the sermon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” Spurgeon gives us four evidences of God’s work upon our hearts.  

The Heart as the Organ of Knowledge

The heart is represented in Scripture as the organ of knowledge and where our spiritual life is seated. One clear example of this is in Romans 10:10, where Paul says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” To believe is to know, and just as with the heart one believes, so also with the heart one knows. Additionally, we are taught these truths elsewhere in Scripture concerning matters of the heart: the heart is where God’s love has been poured into through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5); out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mat. 12:34); God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6); circumcision is a matter of the heart (Rom. 2:29); our adorning ought to be the hidden person of the heart (1 Pet. 3:4); and that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

The heart, therefore, is the seat of the spiritual life and the seat of the knowledge of God. Furthermore, Spurgeon understood the heart to be man’s essential self. He writes, “The heart is the true man; it is the very citadel of the City of Mansoul; it is the fountain and reservoir of manhood, and all the rest of man may be compared to the many pipes which run from the fountain through the streets of a city.”[1] Man’s intellect, will, and emotions are all found to be rooted in and flow out of the heart. The heart is the innermost being, the self, and to be given a new heart is to be given a new self. A heart of flesh is a new creation; from it arises a new man with new dispositions and a new nature. This heart is given the Holy Spirit-enabled power to put away the old self that is corrupt with deceitful desires and the power to put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24). Having set the stage for understanding the heart as the seat of this knowledge, let’s proceed to unpack four aspects of it as understood by Spurgeon. These include admiration, appropriation, affection, and adhesion. 

Admiration

The greater our understanding of the sinful nature that resides within us, the greater our admiration of God, who is wholly different from us. With a heart of stone, man suppresses the knowledge of God and is hardened toward his perfect being, but given a heart of flesh, man is renewed to a right understanding of God and thereby admires his character and attributes. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The man with a new heart admires God, whose ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than his own. God becomes the greatest being of his contemplation and one to whom none other compares. The great distinction between Creator and creature is realized, and with it, his supremacy and providential care over all that exists is cherished. The first aspect of the seat of man’s heart-knowledge of God, therefore, is admiration. Spurgeon writes:

“I understand by the fact that the knowledge of God here promised lies in the heart, first, that God renews the heart so that it admires the character of God. The understanding perceives that God is just, powerful, faithful, wise, true, gracious, longsuffering, and the like; then the heart being purified admires all these glorious attributes, and adores him because of them.”[2]

Appropriation

No matter how great his concept of God may be, man will not be content solely in admiration of Him. Admiration is not enough to fill the void that has left his heart empty. He desires not only the idea of God, as beautiful as he has seen him to be, but God himself. He will find no rest until the presence of God becomes realized; he must appropriate God unto himself and call upon him as Father. By “appropriate,” it means that man who once merely admired the Lord now knows him as the Lord of his life. Only when we enter into communion with God does our longing for something greater become satisfied. We do not rightly know God solely through admiration but through faith, and therefore, we move past admiration to appropriation

By appropriation, Spurgeon intends for man not only to approve of the God of Scripture but to cling to him in faith, submit to his Lordship, and make him his God. Man comes to a turning point when the sin that once satisfied him no longer provides fulfillment. Ultimately, he discovers that he is lost without God and, through the work of the Spirit, becomes aware of his need for redemption. Given a new heart, man chooses God over his sin and cherishes Christ as his Savior. What at a time he lacked the power to do, he now, by the Spirit, acknowledges Christ as King and follows him over and against the straying of his heart and the ruler of this world. Regarding appropriation, Spurgeon writes: 

“The heart-knowledge promised in the covenant of grace means, however, much more than approval: grace enables the renewed heart to take another step and appropriate the Lord, saying, ‘O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee’… The man who only knows the Lord with his head regards him as anybody’s God, or another man’s God; but the man who knows the Lord with his heart exclaims with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’ By an act of appropriating faith the gracious man cries out, ‘The Lord is my portion saith my soul…’”[3]

Affection

In the work of Spurgeon, admiration and appropriation of the Lord lead to affection for him. It is out of our affection for the Lord that we truly begin to know him and experience him. Spurgeon writes, “All true knowledge of God is attended by affection for him. In spiritual language to know God is to love him.”[4] This love brings our disposition from what was once alienated and hostile towards God (Col. 1:21) to that which now seeks to please God. When we are given a new heart, we are given new affections for God – affections that increasingly desire Him and increasingly separate us from our former passions and shallow pursuits. God becomes what is most dear to our hearts. On this new disposition, Spurgeon writes: 

“It is the great passion of the renewed soul to glorify God, whom he knows and loves; knowledge without love would be a powerless thing, but God has joined this knowledge and love together in a sacred wedlock, and they can never be put asunder. As we love God we know him, and as we know him we love him.”[5]

Adhesion

Lastly, admiration, appropriation, and affection are made permanent by adhesion. To know something by heart is to know something thoroughly, assuredly, and rightly. It is to know something at such a level that it is not easily forgotten. On the depth of this knowledge, Spurgeon writes, “That which is learned in the head may be unlearned, for our understanding is very fickle and our memory frail, but that which is written upon the heart cannot be erased.”[6] To have a heart-knowledge of God is one that can never be taken away; it is an abiding knowledge that will remain to our final day. In the words of Spurgeon, “Memories of the heart abide when all others depart.”[7] The man of faith can be assured that as the knowledge of the mind decays, the knowledge of the heart will stay. On the permanency of this knowledge, Spurgeon writes: 

“If we can sing, ‘O God, my heart is fixed, O my heart is fixed,’ then the knowledge which it possesses will never be taken away from it. To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, is not a fleeting attainment, but shall abide with us and increase until we know even as we are known. This is not the knowledge which shall vanish away, but that which shall be perfected when the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”[8]

Concluding Remarks 

How about you, dear reader, do you love God? Has your heart come to know him? When speaking of God, love and knowledge are inseparable; the terminology of heart-knowledge interlinks the two. In loving God, you know him, and in knowing God, you love him. The seat of this knowledge we speak of is in the heart because that is the seat of our spiritual life and affections. May the affections of your heart be ever increasingly directed towards the one true God. Looking ahead to Part III, we will uncover the necessity of having a heart-knowledge of God. For now, I will leave you with this quote from Spurgeon to consider, “Where the Lord is fully known he is intensely loved.”[9]


[1] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 13, 50.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 840.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841-842.

[6] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[7] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[8] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[9] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.


Jaron Button is a Th.M. student at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO. He serves as a Research Assistant for Dr. Chang and The Spurgeon Center, and as Corporal for Midwestern Seminary’s campus security. He is married to Tiffany and together they are members of Northtown Trinity Church in North Kansas City, MO.