Blog Entries

Sermon of the Week: No. 106 “Turn or Burn”

Phillip Ort March 18, 2019

“How few there are who solemnly tell us of the judgment to come.”


The Bible says that “If [the sinner] will turn not, God will whet his sword.” Indeed, for Charles Spurgeon not only does God “[have] a sword” but he will “punish man on account of his iniquity.” However, this conviction placed Spurgeon at odds with his larger culture.


Spurgeon saw his own era as that “evil generation” which “hath laboured to take away from God the sword of his justice.” His culture “endeavored to prove” that God would “clear the guilty” and by no means “punish, iniquity, transgression and sin.” The secularizing “progress” of Victorian England tried to un-god God by removing his absolute right of judgment.


In Spurgeon’s day the “cry of the age” was that “God is merciful” and that “God is love.” And while Spurgeon agreed with these Biblical truths, he was quick to contend that “it is equally true, that God is just, severely and inflexibly just.” Indeed, Spurgeon insisted that “He were not God if he were not just.”


Spurgeon knew that faithfully preaching the reality of God’s just judgment would bring “opprobrium and scandal” upon him. However, he remained resolute because he longed to be “faithful to God” rather than love ease.


In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon expounded the “Nature of the turning here meant.” Here he noted as a matter of first importance that “the turning meant is actual, not fictitious.” True “turning,” or repentance, could not stop “with promises and vows” but had to “[deal] with real acts of life.”


Indeed, for repentance to be real there had to be a “true and actual abandonment of sin” and a real “turning unto righteousness.” One could not “bow your head,” say “Lord, I repent,” and a short time later “commit the same deeds again.” To those who did Spurgeon sternly warned “your repentance is worse than nothing.”


Furthermore, repentance consisted not in “giving up one sin,” or even “fifty sins” but was “the solemn renunciation of every sin.” Sin was an “accursed viper” and was not to be indulged. And in Spurgeon’s view to “indulge in but one lust” was like a “leak in a ship” which would “sink thy soul.”


Another characteristic of true repentance was that it was “immediate.” There were many who “promise” on their “deaths beds” to repent only to find it too late. In Spurgeon’s experience “if you repent not in health, you will never repent in sickness.” After all, “it is few who have changed after a long life of sin.”


Finally, true repentance was also “perpetual.” It was not the “turning to God during to-day” which offered proof of conversion, rather it was the “forsaking of my sin throughout the entire of my life.” Simply, the change God works in conversion was neither “transitory” nor “superficial.” It was not “cutting off the top of the weed” but rather pulling it up by the roots.


In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon addressed the “Necessity that God should…punish men, if they will not turn.” Here Spurgeon first asserted that “we cannot suppose the God of the Bible could suffer sin to be unpunished.” While Spurgeon knew that some could “dream their intellects into a state of intoxication” he knew that “no man whose reason is sound…can imagine a God without justice.”


Put bluntly, “to suppose him all love, and no justice, were to undeify him, and make him no longer God.” Indeed, Spurgeon believed that God would not be “capable of ruling this world if he had not justice in his heart.”


Second, Spurgeon believed that to “imagine that there shall be no punishment for sin” and that “man can be saved without repentance” would “fly in the face of all the Scriptures.” Third, he believed that men’s “own consciences tell [them] that God must punish sin.” He knew that even the most hardened atheist would “believe in hell” when they were dying because “conscience makes cowards of us all.”


In the third, and final, section of his sermon Spurgeon examined the “Means of repentance.” Here Spurgeon declared that “Sinner! thou art so desperately set on sin, that I have no hope thou wilt ever turn from it thyself.” But, hope was not lost because “he who died on Calvary is exalted on high ‘to give repentance and remission of sin.’” And so Spurgeon’s charge was to look to Christ and find salvation in him alone.


Why you should take up and read:


Charles Spurgeon lamented that there were few who would “solemnly tell us of the judgment to come.” He saw his own era as that “evil generation” which “hath laboured to take away from God the sword of his justice.” While it is true that “God is merciful,” and that “God is love,” it is “equally true that God is just.” For those wanting their convictions strengthened, or needing their consciences roused, please take up and read.


Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:

Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.