11 February 2016

Against Mission Drift

by Phil Johnson

've been retired from blogging for nearly four years now, and I almost forgot how to get back in here. Very few things (or people) could have persuaded me to come back.

But I do sincerely love Thabiti Anyabwile, and after I poked at him in a Tweet, he directed some comments at his blog to me. He deserves a reply. So I'm back today for one post, and one post only. I'm not wishing to prolong a controversy. I strongly agree with the gist of Thabiti's remarks in the video excerpts I posted early Thursday morning. One of the logical corollaries of that excellent 2010 T4G message is that if brothers in Christ find themselves engaging in a prolonged, bitter controversy over something extraneous to the gospel, they have clearly gone off-message.

Moreover, as Thabiti rightly said in 2010, "The gospel addresses this irreducible minimum: that individuals must repent and believe" in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To view Christian ministry in terms of "'winning the culture, engaging the culture, changing the culture' as ambiguous as it is, the language itself signifies that mission drift is already under way." All I really want to do is re-emphasize and reaffirm that point, which he made.

Also, full disclosure: I have a son who is a police officer who currently works nights in one of the most dangerous precincts of Los Angeles. My concerns about Thabiti's mission drift are undoubtedly magnified by my conviction that some of the rhetoric peppering his Twitter feed over the past two years aids and encourages a movement whose influence has put my son's life at significantly greater risk. Based on how the media, millennials, and most Internet forums have handled the issues of racism and police work, it seems fair to assume that the sector of society where my son must live and work is far more openly hostile to cops than to young black men, and Thabiti's post-Ferguson rhetoric hasn't helped. Thabiti and friends are not going to diminish the very real problem of racism or remedy the cancer of corrupt or criminal cops by portraying law enforcement itself as an evil institution and automatically assuming every police shooting is unjust. If anything, such rhetoric has widened a wedge in the church that (by Thabiti's own admission) should not be there at all.

Anyway here are a few of my thoughts in response to Thabiti's post. I'll reply to him directly:



Dear brother,

Thanks for your gracious feedback and your willingness to have this exchange with me. Without getting into a lengthy debate (which I'm sure would be unprofitable for both of us), I want to underscore just a few vital points in reply to your Thursday blogpost:
  1. I'm no doctor. I'm not a veterinarian. I've never even swept the floors at CVS. I recently removed my own stitches, but I don't think that qualifies me to be called "Dr." Dr. Phil is a totally different guy, in every way you can possibly imagine. The only thing I have in common with him is our first name and our home town.
  2. I'm not sure why you began your post by suggesting my Thursday morning Tweet was prompted by some mention of the word justice from you. I said nothing whatsoever about justice (which I strongly advocate, without excluding criminal justice). Nor did I say anything about social justice (which strikes me as one of those terms like agitator, having a controversial history and carrying a significant load of baggage). What actually did goad me to post excerpts from my favorite Anyabwile message was your tweet on Wednesday recommending an avowed socialist, secularist, and ardent supporter of abortion as the most suitable candidate for African American voters.
  3. You write, "If I understand this correctly, I’m the one now suffering 'mission drift,' one swept so powerfully to the left that the Bible and gospel have lost its center in my ministry." Yes. That's precisely what I allege, using your excellent 2010 description of how we can tell "that mission drift is already under way."
  4. I do realize, of course, that "'justice' and justice in [all] its [true] 'social' implications are biblical terms and ideas." Again, your use of the word "justice" had nothing to do with what or why I posted that video excerpt. But since you bring it up, let me make the point that Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; and Matthew 26:52 are just as surely tenets of biblical justice as Proverbs 31:8-9 and Jeremiah 5:28. The movement you have aligned yourself with has (to borrow your words) "a curious way of ignoring those texts and any application of them."
  5. Trigger warning: In this paragraph I will defend some politically incorrect terminology. Regarding the word agitator, you are correct that I was totally unaware that this word brought to mind racist connotations for anyone. I think you should investigate the actual history of the word, or easier yet, Google it alongside the word "communist." You'll find its dominant polemical use in the 20th century was to describe fomenters of left-wing political passions. (The Russians even invented a very useful term, agitprop, combining "agitate" and "propaganda" to describe the literature and systems by which Soviet Communist officials disseminated their views.) Anyway, if certain black leaders have commonly been labeled "agitators," I suspect it has rather more to do with their political opinions than with their race. And in any case, let me assure you that my use of this term had nothing whatsoever to do with race and everything to do with the Tweet you posted Wednesday (and its follow-ups), which understandably gave the impression to many who follow your Twitter feed that you are now stumping for Bernie Sanders. (Apologies to anyone who may think the verb "stump" is a microaggression against amputees. I don't mean it that way.)


  6. You have repeatedly declared your support for #BlackLivesMatter (and the protests they have organized). But you have done this in a way that systematically blurs a crucial distinction between the slogan and the movement that goes by that name.
  7. I don't know of any Christians anywhere who (in your words) "can’t seem to bring themselves to even utter the phrase [or] to say publicly, in principle, 'Black lives matter.'" Together with all my Christian brothers and sisters, I affirm emphatically that Black lives do matter—including the lives of unborn black infants. Many of us also want to stress that #BlueLivesMatter, too. And though loud voices in the BlackLivesMatter movement have already dismissed this as a racist slogan: All lives matter. We must make that confession together as well, because it is an essential tenet of biblical justice. Every human soul is precious—and each one will give account to God. That's why the gospel matters more than any injustice that might be committed against us as believers. And Christians who link arms with angry pagans in civic protests that threaten to become riots are actually behaving unjustly, by the biblical standard. Those seem like necessary conclusions of the premises you set forth in that 2010 message.
  8. Furthermore, what the organization calling itself BlackLivesMatter.com has done with that slogan is a gross corruption of the biblical concept of social justice. Specifically, their angry rhetoric and efforts to portray all law enforcement officers as emblems of institutionalized injustice puts every policeman (regardless of ethnicity) at greater risk.
  9. You famously stated: "It’s tragic that the country’s biggest sin is racism and the Church’s biggest omission is racial justice." I don't think either part of that statement is true. Perhaps the country's most talked-about sin is racism. There are at least a hundred churches in my town, and on any given Sunday if you could sample them all, you'll hear countless lectures on prosperity, relationships, social ills, politics, or the latest charismatic prophecies—almost anything except Scripture. You're far more likely to hear a lecture on the evils of racism than a clear exposition of some biblical text. So I'd say the greatest omission in the church is clear and accurate teaching of the Word of God. But more to the point: in a nation where millions of unborn infants are slaughtered annually, it seems pretty clear to me that the worst sin against blacks in America isn't racism per se, but the murders of countless unarmed black babies. Statistics suggest that twice as many blacks are killed by abortion as by all other causes combined. I know you are opposed to abortion, Thabiti, and you've even compared it to the sin of slavery. When you originally wrote that "the country’s biggest sin is racism," I dismissed that rhetoric as hyperbole. But your recent comments in the context of this year's election do give the clear impression that for you, abortion simply doesn't rise to the same level of urgency as racism. You seem to be moving steadily that way since you began to get pushback after your comments in the wake of the Ferguson riots and your continued defense of the "Hands up, don't shoot" myth. It does seem to me that your moral scales have become imbalanced.
  10. Finally, given the subject matter that consumes your blogposts and Tweets nowadays, I don't know how you can seriously claim there has been no shift in your thinking or teaching since 2010's T4G message.
I wholeheartedly agree with the comments I posted from Thabiti 2.010. If that seems like I'm taking a "shot" at you, forget me and just listen to what you yourself were saying in 2008-2010.

Collateral reading from Todd Pruitt on the blurring of lines between "Black lives do matter,: and #BlackLivesMatter: Black Lives Matter or black lives matter?

 

Phil's signature


God's Sovereignty and Grace at Zarephath

by Phil Johnson


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Phil back in August 2007. He explained how the account of Elijah at Zarephath was a display of God's sovereignty and grace.


As usual, the comments are closed.
God was sovereign in His choice of the widow of Zarephath to host Elijah. Jesus made that point emphatically at the beginning of His public ministry, in His own home synagogue in Nazareth. (Luke 4:24-26)

Think about this: God could have sent Elijah to any number of widows in Jerusalem, but he bypassed them all and chose this foreign widow instead.

God's sovereignty over the human heart is a theme that runs through 1 Kings 17. He chose this woman to show grace to. He moved her to respond. The Lord Himself makes this idea explicit. In verse 9, He tells Elijah: "Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." It was God who moved her heart to extend hospitality to Elijah, despite her own extremity. It was God who opened her heart to have enough faith to make him a small cake before she prepared her final handful of meal for herself and her son.

In other words, her kindness to Elijah was not the reason she was shown grace. Rather, it is proof that God's sovereign grace was at work in her heart. There was nothing in this woman's character that made her more deserving of God's grace than anyone else. Grace, by definition, is something that is entirely undeserved.

The reason this widow was shown a special mercy simply cannot be explained by "something in her." It was entirely owing to the sovereign will of God, who has mercy on whomever He chooses. She was sovereignly singled out by God to be a living object lesson of the truth that God would pour out His mercy on the Gentiles. Israel would fall because of unbelief, and God would therefore show grace to the Gentiles. Jesus used this incident to illustrate that point when the people in his own home town turned against Him.

So the point is not that this woman had hidden virtues that somehow merited God's favor more than any of the widows in Israel. The point is that God's grace cannot be taken for granted. He bestows His grace on whomever He chooses, and when it pleases Him, he may bypass all the widows in Israel in order to show mercy on a pagan widow.

So don't squander the grace He shows you. Don't harden your heart when you hear His voice. Don't take His grace for granted.

10 February 2016

Math and Elections, Revisited

by F.X. Turk

Yes, Hello -- first things first: the content of this post is a modified reprint from 2012, and while the data has changed slightly regarding demographic mix, it is still a wildly-relevant post as you are about to go and vote in a state primary to assist in electing a nominee for President of the United States. I have a few notes to preface with, however, before you are reminded of how math works:

1. When this post went live originally, a lot of people thought that they were selling their souls to vote for the "lesser of two evils," given the final choices available to them, so they were going to still vote their consciences, by gum, and the devil take the hindmost. And he has. So let me say here what I said then even though it was widely ignored: this is the time, right now, in the primary process, to vote as far to the extreme as you can muster. Vote insane (cf. Trump and Kasich); vote as if RUSH is your favorite rock band (cf. Rand Paul); vote for the one with the real private-sector experience (cf. Carly); vote for the Guy who has made a career of upsetting the political apple cart for a principle (cf. Cruz); vote for the nice boy (cf. Rubio). Right now is the time to vote entirely on your most critical political principlebecuase now is the time you have the most choices and can steer the ship a little. After the convention is done? Don't complain that we have made sausage. We are making sausage, not Prime Rib.

2. You are not electing a Messiah or a Pastor.  Seriously.  We should want to be ruled by a just Turk rather than an incompetent Presbyterian every single day until Christ returns.

3. What's the Biblical reason for thinking the way this post is thinking and is asking you to think?  I think there are at least 3 good Biblical reasons to think this way:
3A - Wisdom requires us to do better than our worst (cf. Prov 2:20-22).  Voting for someone as a "protest vote" who only causes a far worse candidate than the viable alternative to win is not doing better than your worst.
3B - The burden of saving the world is not on you, but the burden of doing right by your neighbor is. (cf. Lev 19:18; Mk 12:31)  You are not doing right by your neighbor to vote in a way that is utterly heavenly-minded and of no Earthly good.
3C - All good actions in this world, except for the final return and judgment of Christ, are always acts of incrementalism. (cf. Mat 28:19; Acts 2:40-41; Luke 9:23) Take one step in the right direction even if you cannot take all the steps right this second.

After that, do as you will.  Best wishes and God's blessings on all of you as we live through this time of judgment on our nation.  Be faithful, love God, and love people.

This is not really what we usually do at TeamPyro, but because it is on thinking about politics and this election I am writing, we will start with the merely-pragmatic.  Before starting: this is not an endorsement of [anyone].  This is an examination of one claim by one group of people regarding what they say they believe about voting in this election.

So there’s a lot of hysteria about voting for [anyone] right now, especially from two different kinds of conservatives.  One kind can’t vote for a Mormon.  The other kind can’t vote for a politician in the real world who, frankly, doesn’t agree with them on every jot and tittle – and supposedly on at least one major political issue.  If you are one of these people, this post is probably not for you.  I will deal with you later.

There is one class of voter this post is for, and that’s the voter who isn’t a huge fan of [anyone], and is not a fan of [the other anyone], and wants to vote for anyone else more attuned to their stated political beliefs – for example, Ron Paul, or perhaps Pat Robertson, or perhaps Sara Palin – someone farther to the right with better Bona Fides than [anyone].  But they know, in their heart, that this vote is a vote of conscience and not a vote which will actually cause that man to be put into office.  So when they are confronted by the objection, “A vote for [[anyone]] is a vote for [the other anyone],” they ask the astute question, “Pray tell: why isn’t it a vote for [a better outcome]?”  DJP has dealt with this 4 years ago, but I have something it seems most people have not considered.

Math, my dear friend: Math.

First: objectively, let’s say we have more than 2 candidates (let’s say 3, but it could be 7), and in the choices A, B, or C one votes for “C”, it should be said that a vote for “C” is in fact a vote against both “A” and “B”.  There’s no question about that – plainly, the vote is objectively “Not A” and “Not B” but “C”.  The problem is that this only assumes that the natural bias of the system would render all choices of equal weight, and a protest vote for “C” against “A” and “B” would have the same effect against “A” as it will against “B”.

Now: what do I mean by a “natural bias”?  I mean this:
Political party         Registered members
Democrat (BLUE)         43.1 million
Republican (RED)        30.7 million
Constitution             0.367 million
Libertarian              0.278 million
Green                    0.246 million
Independent  24.0 Million

(source: procon.org) 
The natural bias in the electorate, not accounting for partisan enthusiasm or lack thereof, is that the “BLUE” side will get 43.7% of the votes (assuming party loyalty), “RED” side will get 31.1 % of the votes, about 2% will vote for a radical candidate, and there will be 24.3% up for grabs.  In a world where, as some are supposing, the major candidates are just about the same sort of elected official, there’s no reason to believe that the “I” votes won’t be split in half – so the final result of this election would be roughly 55-43 BLUE victory.

The natural tendency, given the base inclination of the registered voters, is to skew BLUE.

Now: think about this.  What has to happen for the election to skew RED is some combination of the following:

  • Suppressed BLUE voter turnout (“suppressed” meaning the voters don’t show up – not that they are imprisoned or threatened to stay away from the polls.  Don't be like that.)
  • BLUE turnout swinging to RED (meaning: moderates make a pragmatic choice to select away from base party affiliation)
  • Independent voters overwhelmingly turning to RED candidate vs. BLUE candidate (like: Reagan)

Only these outcomes influence the RED benefit positively, mathematically.  Or put another way: only these outcomes negatively influence the BLUE benefit.

There are no scenarios where RED-side voters (such as Constitution and Libertarian) voting either for a non-major party candidate or sitting out benefits RED and not BLUE.  RED-side voters must vote RED because they are in the registered minority. If they expect ever to get an outcome on the RED side in the general election, they have to vote for the likely winner on the RED side.

Therefore: So what?


1. Do whatever you think is best in the primaries.  I think you should vote as far to the side of the spectrum you favor as you can stomach in the primaries.  You should pull your party as far to your way of thinking in the *internal* decision-making process as you think you and your like-minded friends can do it.

2. You have to accept that if our republican form of government is a legitimate form of government, you are never going to get everything you want – even in your own party.  And you have to accept that, frankly, that’s a good thing – because you are a sinner just like that tax collector over there.  Literally.

3. Once the primaries are settled, you have to do the math.  That is: you have to vote for someone with a mathematical likelihood of winning if you really want to affect change.  By that, I mean this: historically, there is no way in the clear blue sky that you will ever get a BLUE-side candidate who will get less than 43% of the vote.  It simply will not happen.  That means your candidate, to actually affect change, has to get a minimum of 44% of the vote to win.  Given the numbers above, that means all the Indie voters, and more than half the registered “BLUE” voters.  If your alternative candidate cannot get that many votes – and I propose to you that it doesn’t matter who he is: he can’t get them – then you have to ask yourself: do I affect any change by voting for the mathematically-guaranteed loser?

4. Relating to the question asked, above, this is exactly how a vote against Obama but not for Romney ensures Obama’s victory: mathematically, [BLUE SIDE] has a winning plurality of core voters, and no one else does.  Seriously: if the electorate splits by registration saturation, BLUE wins the plurality.  When you cast your vote, you need to vote remembering that if you cast a vote which creates a plurality, you are spinning the result toward the party with the inherent plurality-winning base.

A closing note: the question of winning a plurality is obviously a HUGE issue in the red-side primaries.  In a race split the way the RED-side is split right now, the way we reason through the plurality matters.  Reason through it in a way that doesn't leave us with a clown at the top of the ticket.

1, 3 and 4 are simple mathematical realities; 2 is a political reality – that is, accepting the rules by which the game is played.

Hope that helps.









07 February 2016

Getting your ducks in a row!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 13, sermon number 758, "The glorious gospel of the blessed Lord."
"Let us endeavour to make men notice what kind of gospel we believe." 

Only a few weeks ago, a missionary in China took his gun to go up one of the rivers of the interior to shoot wild ducks; and, as he went along in the boat, he shot at some ducks, and down they fell; unfortunately they did not happen to be wild fowl, but tame ducks belonging to some of the neighbours. 


The owner was miles away, but the boat was drawn up to the side of the river, and the missionary went about carefully endeavouring to find out the owner of the ducks, for he could not rest until he had paid for the damage he had ignorantly done. 


The owner was much surprised, he had been so accustomed to have people shoot his ducks and never say a word about it, that he could not understand the honesty of the man of God, and he told others, until crowds of Chinese gathered around and stared at the missionary as if he had dropped from the moon; a man so extremely honest as not to be willing to take away ducks when he had killed them! 


They listened to the gospel with attention, and observed that the teaching must be good which made people so conscientious as the missionary had been. I can only think that little accident did more for the gospel than the preaching of twenty sermons might have done without it. So let it be with us; let us so act in every position that we shall adorn the gospel which is committed to our trust.




04 February 2016

Faith, Reason, Obedience, Sufficiency

by Dan Phillips


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Dan back in December 2011. Dan used Jeremiah 13 as a launching point to show why the only proper response to a command from God is faithful obedience.


As usual, the comments are closed.
As I read through the first part of Jeremiah 13, an instructive and timely pattern leapt out at me.

In verse one, Yahweh instructs the prophet to purchase and wear a linen loincloth. In verse 2, Jeremiah does it. Period. Then, and only then, does the prophet receive another word from Yahweh.

Pause and reflect on that. Such a trivial command, no? As if God parted the heavens to tell you to buy a can of olives, or a jar of mayonnaise, and put it on the shelf?

If that were the case, would it be lawful and reasonable to ask why this command was given? Sure, I don't know why not. We could ask. But suppose no answer was forthcoming? What then?

In response, let me ask four questions of my own:

  1. Was the directive surely from God?
  2. Was the directive clear enough?
  3. Does God deserve obedience, regardless of the presence or absence of further explanation as to His rationale?
  4. Would it in any sense be unreasonable to say that disobedience, dithering or delay would itself be unreasonable?
In the Biblical example before us, the answers are clear enough. To the first three questions, I would suggest that Yes is the only reasonable answer; and, to the fourth, only No.

Suppose Jeremiah never received one further word from Yahweh. The entry for that day might be, "Dear Diary: today, Yahweh told me to buy a belt, so I did." The diary's last entry of his life might include, "...oh, and I never found out what the deal with the belt was. But that's okay. He's Yahweh. I'm not."

Why would it be "okay"? Do this mental exercise. List for me every last being who does not have exhaustive knowledge of the nature, meaning and significance of every fact or event that ever has existed or will exist, as well as every fact or event that might have existed.

That will be a very, very long list. Blogger won't allow you to write all the names in your comment. This list will contain the name of every last sentient creature, of any order, ever.

My name will be on that list. Yours, as well.

Now: list for me every last being who does have exhaustive knowledge of the nature, meaning and significance of every fact or event that ever has existed or will exist, as well as every fact or event that might have existed.

That will be a very short list. It will contain only one name: God.

At this point — because this is what they do — your village atheist might sputter and fume with explosive, scornful fury. But, just to be blunt and plain, that's what Hell is all about, and that is why only people who deserve to be in Hell will be in Hell... and why we all deserve to be in Hell. The idea of a God who deserves ultimate and all-consuming love and respect and obedience, simply because He is God, is abhorrent, and the rejection of that premise is what launched the doomed project known as "the world."

Back to our passage. The issue to Jeremiah, once he received this seemingly nonsensical directive, is this and only this: is Yahweh worthy of faith, love, and obedience?

That, right there, is the archetypal question. It was that same question in the Garden, and it was at that same point that our great-great-greats answered wrongly, and doomed us all.

You see, they had a word from God that was also clear and sufficient: don't eat the fruit of this tree, or you will die. In fact, they actually had more than Jeremiah had, in that they had a known consequence. So the issue was exactly the same: was Yahweh worthy of faith, love, and obedience?

31 January 2016

Spurgeon died 124 years ago today. B.H. Carroll's eulogy


Image result for Charles Spurgeon

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following memorial address was given by B.H. Carroll, founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the first Sunday in February, 1892.

Hebrews 11:4

Last Sunday Night at Mentone France, there died The Greatest Man of Modern Times.

If every crowned head in Europe had died that night, the event would not be so momentous as the death of this one man! Nay more, if every member of every reigning dynasty had died in one night, it would not have attracted so much attention as this man's death.

On earth perhaps, yes—but in the universe, no.

The more thickly-peopled worlds beyond this outnumber the population of this planet as the stars and sands and forest leaves outnumber the houses of men. And these people, above and below, were more moved at Spurgeon's death, than if all kings had died. Moreover, their interest is without affectation. There is sincerity after death. With them there is no stereotyped grief or joy. No perfunctory condolence of congratulation. No official crape or festoons. No hirelings to mourn or hurrah. Napoleon's return from Elba, LaFayette's visit to America, Washington's and Jackson's tours through the States—were all thrilling pageants, but it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive the glory of Spurgeon's return to the bosom of his God, and his welcome beyond the stars. At the depot of death, God's chariot met him as a kingly guest, and a convoy of angels escorted him home. Cherubim hovered over him and Seraphim flamed before him. The bended heavens stooped to meet him.

"Lift up your heads, O, ye gates
— and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors"
— and let the child of glory come in.

And who are these, like clouds of doves from the windows of heaven, that fly to greet him? These are his spiritual children, begotten unto God through his ministry, out of every nation and tribe and kindred. From the British Isles, from America, from the Australian bush, from the Islands of the sea, "from Africa's torrid climes," and "Greenland's icy mountains," "from India's coral strand," from the pine-clad mountains of Scandinavia, and bleak Nova Zembla, they had gone up before him and were waiting and watching for him.
The ends of the earth were there, not only geographically but morally. There met him the drunkard and the debauchee, there the society-banned harlot, there the "ticket-of-leave" convict and the red-handed murderer, there the children of poverty and hereditary vice, there the converts from infidelity, "that caries of the intellect," there the whilom worshipers of Moloch and ghastly Mammon, these all rescued by his instrumentality as "brands from the burning," and now whiter than snow, and absolved and shrived from sin, free, "redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled." And who can tell their welcome? And who can measure his shout of exultation: "Ye are my crown of rejoicing."

See the sower. See him "that went forth weeping, bearing precious seed," now coming "with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Oh, the sheaves of golden grain, the multitude of sheaves! When before, and oh my soul, when again will the angels shout such a harvest home? How does he pluck and appropriate the promise "they that be wise shall shine as the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever"?

See the builder, the wise master builder. He built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. He built thereupon gold, silver, and precious stones. His work is made manifest. The day has declared it, the day revealed by fire. The fire has tried his work. It abides unconsumed. He receives his reward.

See his heavenly addition. He has added to his faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. These were in him and abounded. They made him that he should be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Christ.

He was not blind. He could see afar off. He never forgot that he was purged from his old sins. He made his calling and election sure. He never fell. An so an entrance was ministered unto him abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His ship comes to the port of heaven not a storm-tossed wreck, dismantled and tattered, towed in by some harbor tug; but with every mast standing, ever sail filled and flowing, and cargoed to the water's edge. Oh, let me "die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"

And what cloud is this that like incense from ten thousand burning censers rises up from the earth and follows him to heaven? Is it not the gratitude of homeless widows whom he has sheltered and clothed and fed? Is it not the blessing of the fatherless, whose orphan condition he has relieved? Is it not the tribute of poor ministers whom he has educated and supplied with books?

But most rapturous and entrancing vision—see him meet the Master himself! Spurgeon and Christ—the saint and his Saviour. Meeting above clouds and sorrow and death. Meeting in that sun-bright clime undimmed by sorrow and unhurt by time, where age hath no power o'er the fadeless frame where the eye is fire and heart is flame.

See the saint casting all his star-crowns and honors at the nail-pierced feet, crying out: "My Lord and my God!" and shouting: "GRACE—grace, all grace—a sinner saved by grace."

YES, SPURGEON IS DEAD.

Earth mourns, but heaven is glad.

And how does the news affect the lost when they see him afar off—beyond the fixed, broad, and impassable gulf—sitting down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God? How do they remember the gospel he preached? How recall his tears, his melting persuasions? How he warned and plead in vain, pointing to the open door— now shut forever; pointing to the water of life, from whose cooling streams they have cut themselves off forever? How, now hopeless, they recall his sermons on hope! How bitter their wail: "We knew our duty, but did it not! However unworthy other preachers, this man is guiltless of our blood. He is a swift witness against us." So hell beneath was moved at his going, as heaven above was moved at his coming. And so Spurgeon's death attracted more attention than if all kings had died.

YES, SPURGEON IS DEAD.

The tallest and broadest oak in the forest of time is fallen.

The sweetest, most silvery and far-reaching voice that published the glad tidings since apostolic times is hushed. The hand whose sickle cut the widest swath in the ripened grain-fields of redemption lies folded and nerveless on a pulseless breast, whose heart when beating kept time with every human joy and woe. But he was ready to be offered. He fought a good fight. He kept the faith, and while we weep, he wears the triple crown of life and joy and glory, which God the righteous judge has conferred upon him.

This wonderful man was both a creation and a result. God created him to be great. His extraordinary natural endowments of mind and body were gifts of God as much as his conversion and call to the ministry. The circumstances of ancestry, training, Puritan libraries, existing contrast between the independent and the State church, together with the times in which he lived—all of which had much to do with him as a result, were providentially furnished ready to his hand.

Question: "How do you account for Spurgeon?" The answer is the monosyllable: "GOD."

In discussing the life and labors of such a man, the limits of this address allow us only to touch lightly, the salient points.

Never since Paul died has so much work and so much success been crowded into so small a space of time.

Let us glance briefly at some of this work.

Mr. Spurgeon was pre-eminently a preacher. He preached more sermons, perhaps, than any other man. More people have heard him than have heard any other man. More people have read and do read his sermons than the sermons of any other man.

Schaff: "The average sale of the Weekly Sermon is twenty-five thousand copies. Two have exceeded it; and one, on Baptismal Regeneration, preached in the summer of 1864, sold to the extent of one hundred and ninety-eight thousand copies." More of them have been translated into foreign tongues than any other sermons. More have appeared in the earth's great daily and weekly papers. More people have been converted by reading them, in more countries, than by, perhaps, all other published sermons. They are all simple. All easily understood. All full of meat, fire, unction, and power. Nearly all are upon the fundamental doctrines of grace. All of them make the way of life so plain that the wayfaring man though a fool, need not err therein. The common people devour them. The poor, ignorant, vile, and unfortunate, rush to them as the thirsty Israelites to the water from the rock. Intellect bows under their power, and Negroes shout over them. The great praise them, and the humble hug them to their heart. Livingstone had one of them in his hat when he died, having carried it through Africa. A widow was found half frozen on an Alpine mountain peak, reading one of them through her tears. A bush-ranger in Australia was converted by reading one, blood-stained, which he had taken from the body of a man he had murdered.

No other man commencing with such large congregations, held them in ever increasing crowds for thirty-eight years, until he died. He came to the old London church where Benjamin Keach was pastor thirty-two years, John Gill fifty-six years, John Rippon sixty-three years. He found a congregation of one hundred in a house whose seating capacity was one thousand and two hundred. In three months it was crowded, and in less than a year they had to enlarge it, while Mr. Spurgeon was filling Exeter Hall. The enlarged church was too small from the first sermon. They moved into Surrey Music Hall, seating seven thousand, and filled it to overflowing.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle was built, seating five thousand, with standing room for one thousand. The standing room was occupied until he died. He never found but one place that could hold his congregation: the open fields roofed by the skies.

With whom among men can you compare him? He combined the preaching power of Jonathan Edwards and Whitfield with the organizing power of Wesley, and the energy, fire, and courage of Luther. In many respects he was most like Luther. In many most like Paul.

His pulpit power derived no aid from adventicious circumstances. He dealt in no tricks of elocution. You cannot conceive of Mr. Spurgeon attitudinizing before a mirror to learn graceful gesticulation. Mr. Spurgeon's pulpit power consisted largely in his convictions. He spake because he believed. He realized that he carried a message from God. A message of life to the lost. It was his business to deliver the message, not vindicate it. He did not feel authorized to minify, dilute, or change it.

He believed in God. He believed in the personality of the devil. He believed the Bible doctrines of heaven and hell. He believed in the eternity of future happiness or woe for every man; in the power of the Holy Ghost; in the divinity of Jesus and the reality of vicarious expiation. He believed that Jesus Christ founded the church. He believed that a Christian congregation should be as a lighthouse on a rock-bound coast, or a chandelier of grouped lights revealing the dangerous pathway to hell and illuminating the narrow way to heaven.

That the mission of the church was not to amuse and entertain, but to save the world. Hence that meeting-houses were not the successors of Solomon's temple, whose antitype is the spiritual church, but were only meeting-houses, and should therefore be constructed with reference to utility and comfort. They should be good audience rooms, well lighted, heated, and ventilated, with enough entrances and exits for convenience and safety, and without steeples, chancels, altars, stained glass, images, or pictures; indeed, without everything that would divert the minds of the people from the preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

His pulpit power was also greatly enhanced by his character. All men felt that he was wedded to truth. He hated all lies and shams and frauds. He was neither two-faced, double-minded, nor double-tongued. He loved candor, and abhorred double-dealing, wire-pulling, indirectness, and Macchiavellianism. His own nature was simple, transparent, direct. His eye was single. If in speech he was natural, shunning the affectations of elocution, the flourishes of rhetoric and all theatrical displays, how much more did he abhor hypocrisy in life, and with what relentless scorn did he tear off the mask which covered moral turpitude, and behind which immorality rotted the souls of men.

He was a real man, not a dreamer or visionary, and possessed withal as large a share of "sanctified common sense" as is ever allotted to man. Then, without being an agitator, politician, or demagogue, he was emphatically one of the people. He had more points of contact with them than any other preacher of modern times. He could play with boys, laugh with girls, and genuinely enjoy a talk with the old women in the almshouses. His sympathy for them in all their sorrows was manifestly unaffected. Except, perhaps, Martin Luther, no other man since the Master himself, so nearly touched the life of the common people all along the line of their experience. He understood them. They understood him. Witness John Ploughman.

Then his nature was so cheery and sunshiny, so social. He was no misanthrope, no recluse, but a mingler in the everyday affairs of life. Moreover, his discernment of human nature was only equalled by his sturdy independence. He believed in the natural dignity of man, as man, without regard to fictitious distinctions of rank and wealth. Human patents of nobility were no more to his rugged Puritan mind than the "titular dignitaries of the chess-board."

One can imagine how he would emphasize the couplet of Burns —

The Rank is but the guinea's stamp, the Man's the gowd, for a' that.

Such a character must have told mightily in his preaching. But Mr. Spurgeon was not only a preacher, but a teacher of preachers (The Pastor's College). That preacher whose preaching never leads others to preach, may well doubt that he is one himself.
Finally, while we cannot dwell on them...

Let us look for a moment at some other lessons suggested by Mr. Spurgeon's life.
(1) Debt. Perhaps, more than any other man of his generation, has Mr. Spurgeon impressed the English-speaking world with the impolicy, degradation, slavery, and sin of debt. In the erection of almshouses, orphanages, colleges, churchhouses, and mission chapels—costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, he never incurred a debt. "Pay as you go" was his watchword.

His publications (see "John Ploughman's Talk" & "J. P.'s Pictures") have teemed with proverbs, illustrations, and exhortations on this subject. He impressed the world that debt is folly, extravagance, bondage, shame, sin. Let us as preachers, Christians, citizens, and churches lay the lesson to heart.

(2) His life and ministry have demonstrated that the doctrine of a free salvation, none of works but all of grace, promotes the highest form of practical piety. The believers of this doctrine do not "sin the more that grace may abound." His ministry and its results prove that not Arminianism but, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation ...teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."

(3) His ministry has demonstrated that a free salvation, none of works but all of grace, promotes and produces the most effective work. Work, not to be saved, but because saved. While his life affirms with unspeakable emphasis: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he has saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour," it also effectively exhorts: "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."

(4) His ministry has demonstrated that while salvation is free, none of works but all of grace, yet the sinner must seek the Lord—must pray for forgiveness, must mourn over sins, must strive to enter in at the strait gate.

(5) His ministry has demonstrated the power of a gospel which insists on man's depravity, the necessity of regeneration, the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, and the undiluted doctrine of substitutionary, vicarious expiation.

(6) But perhaps, greatest of all lessons, his ministry has demonstrated and illustrated the truth of the scripture:

"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me."

That the preaching of "Christ and him crucified," "the glorying only in the cross," "the knowing nothing but the cross," out-draws in attractive power all other themes. What sensationalist, relying on adventitious aids, on flaming advertisements, on slang and ribaldry, on theatrical methods and trick of elocution, ever did gather and hold—in one place—attentive thousands for nearly forty years?

Like Paul, Mr. Spurgeon could say: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

The world needed this lesson. The times were out of joint. The church was drifting from mummeries to infidelity. We needed to go back to first principles. If any man seeks popularity, he will lose it. If he loses it he will find it.

When Bonaparte died, Phillips said: "He is fallen."

When Spurgeon died, the world said: "He is risen."


24 January 2016

Spurgeon on “The golden alphabet," Psalm 119

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The golden alphabet, Prefatory word, pages 6-7, Pilgrim Publications.
"This psalm is a wonderful composition. Its expressions are many as the waves, but its testimony is one as the sea." 

It deals all along with one subject only; but although it consists of a considerable number of verses, some of which are very similar to others, yet throughout its one hundred and seventy-six stanzas the self-same thought is not repeated: there is always a shade of difference, even when the colour of the thought appears to be the same.

Some have said that in it there is an absence of variety; but that is merely the observation of those who have not studied it. I have weighed each word, and looked at each syllable with lengthened meditation; and I bear witness that this sacred song has no tautology in it, but is charmingly varied from beginning to end.

Its variety is that of a kaleidoscope: from a few objects innumerable permutations and combinations are produced. In the kaleidoscope you look once, and there is a strangely beautiful form: you shift the glass a very little, and another shape, equally delicate and beautiful, is before your eyes. So it is here. What you see is the same, and yet never the same: it is the same truth, but it is always placed in a new light, put in a new connection, or in some way or other invested with freshness.

I do not believe that any subject other than a heavenly one would have allowed of such a psalm being written upon it; for the themes of this world are narrow and shallow. Neither could such a handling have been given even to a sacred subject by any mind less than divine; inspiration alone can account for the fulness and freshness of this psalm.

The best compositions of men are soon exhausted; they are cisterns, and not springing fountains. You enjoy them very much at the first acquaintance, and you think you could hear them a hundred times over; but you could not: you soon find them wearisome. Very speedily a man eats too much honey: even children at length are cloyed with sweets.

All human books grow stale after a time; but with the Word of God the desire to study it increases, while the more you know of it the less you think you know. The Book grows upon you: as you dive into its depths you have a fuller perception of the infinity which remains unexplored. You are still sighing to enjoy more of that which it is your bliss to taste. All this is true even of the psalm which is in itself nothing more than the eulogy of the divine testimony.

This wonderful psalm, from its great length, helps us to wonder at the immensity of Scripture. From its keeping to the same subject it helps us to adore the unity of Scripture, for it is but one. Yet, from the many turns it gives to its one thought, it helps us to see the variety of Scripture. How manifold are the words and thoughts of God! In his Word, just as in creation, the wonders of his skill are displayed in many ways.

I admire in this psalm the singular commingling of testimony, prayer, and praise. In one verse the Psalmist bears witness; in a second verse he praises; in a third verse he prays. It is an incense made up of many spices; but they are wonderfully compounded and worked together, so as to form one perfect sweetness. The blending greatly increases the value of the whole.

You would not like to have one-third of the psalm composed of prayer—marked up to the sixtieth verse, for instance; and then another part made up exclusively of praise; and yet a third portion of unmixed testimony. It is best to have all these divinely-sweet ingredients intermixed, and wrought into a sacred unity, as you have them in this thrice-hallowed psalm. Its prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.

17 January 2016

The Samson of divine truth

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 14, sermon number 807, "Good news for loyal subjects."
"The most colossal empires have melted like visions of the night, and the most substantial creations of human power have passed away like the fleeting dew of the morning." 

There have been various dynasties of thought: at one time Plato reigned supreme over thoughtful minds; then Aristotle held a long and rigid rule—he so ruled and governed the entire universe of mind that even the Christian religion was continually infected and tainted by his philosophical speculations; but another philosophy found out his weakness and supplanted him, to be in its turn subverted by the next.

As men grow more enlightened, or the human mind passes through another phase of change, men say to their once-revered rabbis and honoured teachers, “Stand out of the way, a new light has arisen; we have come to a new point of thought, and we have done with you.”

Things which were accounted sure and wise in years gone by, are now ridiculed by us as the height of folly. And why? Because these systems of philosophy and thought have not been based upon truth.

There has been a worm in the centre of the fair apple of knowledge; there has been a flaw in the foundations of the great master-builder; they have built upon sand, and their edifices have tumbled to irretrievable ruin; but the truth, which Jesus taught from the mountain-top, reads as if it were delivered but yesterday.

Christianity is as suitable to the nineteenth century as to the first; it has the dew of its youth upon it. As Solomon’s Song saith of Christ, his locks are bushy and black as a raven, to show his youth and vigour, so may I say of the gospel, it is still as young and vigorous, as full of masculine energy, as ever it was.

We who preach it fear not for the result; give us a fair stage and no favour, and the Samson of divine truth, its locks still unshorn, will yet remove the pillars of the temple of error, and bring ruin to the powers of hell. Jesus must reign as the royal teacher because all he teaches is based upon the surest truth.