Posts tagged spurgeon
Paul, His Cloak, And His Books

As one who spends the majority of his day pouring over books, I have long been encouraged by this homily from the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, on an oft neglected verse (2 Tim. 4:13). When I find myself overwhelmed, with the words of Qoheleth ringing in my ear (Eccles. 12:12), I typically run here for balm. “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read…He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books”—join in the cry…

Spurgeon believed the parchments to be the Holy Scriptures. He urged that Paul’s particular emphasis for the parchments (“especially” or “above all”) shows a level of commitment to the Word of God over all other forms of literature.

Persons read the views of their denominations as set forth in the periodicals; they read the views of their leader as set forth in his sermons or his works, but the Book, the good old Book, the divine fountain-head from which all revelation wells up—this is too often left. You may go to human puddles, until you forsake the clear crystal stream which flows from the throne of God. Read the books, by all manner of means, but especially the parchments. Search human literature, if you will, but especially stand fast by that Book which is infallible, the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A selection from, Paul—his Cloak and his Books. Delivered on November 29th, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington (italic emphasis original, bold emphasis mine).

The Untamable Lion

Spurgeon once wrote:

See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.

I used to love this quote. There’s something exhilarating in thinking about the Word of God as a wild and ravaging lion, striking fear in the heart of its enemies with a thunderous roar that demands reverence. Recently, however, this quote began to trouble me.

Why was the lion in a cage to begin with? After trouncing its enemies, do the guardians escort it back into the cage? I know, if you squeeze an orange too hard the seed may pop out and hit you in the eye, I get it. But hear me out.

We search the Scriptures, study them, assuming the law of noncontradiction, we then piece them together to formulate a theological grid of sorts –a lens through which we will analyze and comprehend the comprehensive whole. Kantzer posits that the goal of the systematic theologian is “to systematize and present as a unified whole the truth concerning God and His relationships to men and the universe as this is authoritatively revealed in the Holy Scriptures and to relate this truth to human thought and life.”

Again, assuming the law of noncontradiction, this synthesized grid should, ideally, fit seamlessly on the texts from which it was constructed. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the Bible isn’t as neat as we synthesizers would like it to be. Sometimes the i’s I wish were dotted, and the t’s I wish were crossed are not. Sometimes, no matter how many times I run the experiment, the results don’t affirm my original hypothesis.

I loved Spurgeon’s quote because I never imagined the beast in the illustration as a timid domesticated cat, until I put it back in its cage…

What happens when you realize that the cage you constructed is not large enough, nor strong enough to contain your massive, untamed lion? Fear begins to register as your lion crushes any illusion you had of it ever being your lion, and reminds you that you are its prey.

What Has Been Is What Will Be...

Spurgeon640.960This selection is from an article written by Charles Spurgeon speaking out against "modern thought" in the life of British Nonconformist churches of the 19th century. Today, just like in Spurgeon's day, many denominations that seek to embrace "modern thought" or adapt to the current cultural ethic at the expense of biblical orthodoxy find themselves shrinking in size, even though the message they preach is a popular one. Why is this? Spurgeon's last line is hauntingly telling:

A new religion has been initiated which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion. being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as tho old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for Gospel preaching. 'l'he Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren, and maintain a confederacy with them!... The fact is, that many would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments. If we are powerless to stem this torrent, we can at least warn men of its existence, and entreat them to keep out of it. When the old faith is gone, and enthusiasm for the gospel is extinct, it is no wonder that people seek something else in the way of delight. Lacking bread, they feed on ashes; rejecting the way of the Lord, they run greedily in the path of folly.

C.H. Spurgeon, “Another Word Concerning the Down-Grade”, The Sword and the Trowel (August, 1887), 397-8, emphasis mine.

There is nothing novel about a denial of the Gospel, no matter how inclusive it becomes.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

- Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV