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."


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.


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.

14 January 2016

Orthodoxy: The Most Important Agenda

by Frank Turk

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 Frank back in March 2013. Frank explained why orthodoxy is vital when speaking about truth.

As usual, the comments are closed.
In my experience, it always comes back to this question: "Does Orthodoxy matter in the life of the Christian?" "It", in this case, is any discussion in which the name of Jesus Christ is used to advance an agenda.

Let's clear something up before I go on: having an "agenda" is not a bad thing. Anyone who has ever been in a meeting knows that an agenda keeps the meeting from lasting forever and also keeps the meeting facing some goal. Listen: I know that a lot of people frequently use the word "agenda" to mean "an underlying often ideological plan or program", and intend it to imply some evil motive. I don't intend it that way. When I say that someone has an agenda, simply read it to mean that I think this person does what they are doing intentionally. That is to say, they have thought about what they are doing and choose to do it for specific reasons.

God willing, we should all have an agenda. God willing, we all have the right agenda. Don't get all squirrelly because I say someone has an agenda.

So in any discussion where someone is using an agenda and part of that agenda is "Jesus Christ" -- either as an end or as a means -- I wonder if anyone considers the complex matter of Orthodoxy? I ask this because when this matter comes up, it seems like it always causes a wicked stir.

What seems to come up quite often is this: apparently, that question is irrelevant -- or perhaps it is actually the wrong question to ask at all because of other mitigating factors. Some people advocate that there is no right way to determine orthodoxy because of the state of the church; others advocate that the demand for orthodoxy is itself a flawed pursuit because it is abstracted from the good works in evidence. In that, we should be able to call John Paul II, or Bono, or Mother Theresa, or Johnny Cash, or TD Jakes, or Oprah, or the Apostle Paul all "heroes of the faith" because their work was done in some orbit around the center-bound name of Jesus.

Yet it never fails to upset the advocates of this position when one asks anyway, "well, I happen to personally know a fellow who spent 2 years in South America as a missionary building hospitals and teaching school to children -- but he was a missionary for the Latter Day Saints. Is he a Christian hero also?" If you're lucky, after you sort through all the hyperbolic rhetoric that comes back, you might find the retort, "oh heavens -- he's not even a Trinitarian. That's a stupid example." If you're not as lucky, you'll find a respected Seminary President who gives your question the high-brow pish-tosh, as if Joseph Smith never renounced all of Christendom as abhorrent to God, declaring himself and his golden tablets the only true prophetic utterance.

Somehow those who will reply in that way simply cannot see the matters of orthodoxy at stake. I would actually agree that being non-Trinitarian (like a Oneness advocate, or a Mormon) excludes one from Orthodoxy -- which is my point in asking the question. What it underscores, however, is the larger issue that the Trinity is not the only matter of orthodoxy. If one is outside the faith for rejecting the Trinity, can't one be outside the faith for adding Mary, de facto via prayers to her that ask her to do the work of the Holy Spirit, to the Trinity? What about worshiping the Eucharist as God? Or for that matter, what about changing Jesus' declaration "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me," to mean that anyone who says he worships the God of Abraham must by implication be brought there through Christ -- even if he explicitly rejects Christ? What if someone was doing all of the above?

Or worse: what if someone has made the work of the Cross merely into a means of making money, or making himself important or popular?

All of these questions are matters of orthodoxy -- that is, matters of what is and is not "the Gospel", what is and is not the Good News of Jesus Christ.  To be a disciple of Christ for the sake of the Cross and the Gospel means that we are actually referring to "Christ", "Cross", and "Gospel." That is: we are referring to that real person and those real things which are the ones which do all the unbelievable things we say they do. If we say "cross" and we mean a piece of jewelry, or "Gospel" and we mean a kind of campy folk music, we are not talking about truth but rather mere fashion. But when we are talking about truth, Orthodoxy -- that is, conformity to the faith delivered once for all time to the saints -- has to matter.  Conformity to that cannot merely be on the agenda: it has to be the the actual agenda, the singular objective and only check-box.

Especially, since it needs to be said, when we're talking about the men who lead the church both by proxy and by example.

10 January 2016

Healing of soul and body

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 Gospel of the Kingdom, page 56, Pilgrim Publications.
"For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say Arise, and walk? Matthew 9:5 

He answers their evil thoughts by a question which was to them unanswerable. Surely the two things are equally beyond human power to work. But to say “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” is the easier to all appearance, because no apparent result is expected to follow by which the reality of the speech can be tested.

Thousands have pretended to absolve a man from sin, who would not have dared to command a disease to disappear. The difference in merely saying is all in favour of the first speech.

If we compare the two miracles, it would be long before one could arrive at an answer as to which is the easier; for they are both impossible with men. In some respects the pardon of sin is the greater work of the two, for its accomplishment requires the whole apparatus of incarnation and atonement.

Our Lord wrought both miracles, and thus confirmed his claim of power by a visible sign which none could question.

He that can pardon my soul can heal my body; for that would seem to be the easier of the two deeds of mercy. I may bring both forms of malady to Jesus, and he will deal with them. Lord, heal my spirit and cure my flesh! Yea, thou wilt do this work most effectually by raising my body incorruptible as thine own.

07 January 2016

Paul's final words of advice to Timothy

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 March 2012. It was the last in a series of posts in which he offered his thoughts on 2 Timothy 4.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Still summing up his own ministry philosophy, expanding what he means in 2 Timothy 4:2 ("preach the word . . . in season and out"), and now writing his final words of advice to Timothy, Paul ends with four imperatives in quick succession. Let's look at each one.

"As for you, [in contrast to every popular trend] always be sober-minded" (v. 5). The Greek word Paul uses has all the same connotations as the English word sobriety. Its primary meaning has to do with abstinence from wine.

In this context, however, the admonition is not exclusively—and probably not even primarily—about the consumption of wine. Like our word sober, the Greek term here also speaks of alertness, serious thoughtfulness, dignity. The King James Version translates it as a reference to watchfulness: "But watch thou in all things." And that's certainly an important aspect of the idea.

Remember, all these imperatives expand and elaborate on the central idea, which is at the head of the list: "Preach the word." Paul is saying, handle it soberly. Treat it with the gravity and sobriety and circumspection your calling warrants. Don't be a clown or a trifler in the pulpit. Especially when people are demanding to have their ears tickled, you need to impress on them the full weight of the profound importance of God's unadulterated Word.

Then: "endure suffering." This is an inevitable and inescapable aspect of every minister's duty. Chapter 3, verse 12: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Paul's own sufferings bleed into the text of both his epistles to Timothy. Paul keeps telling Timothy he needs to be bold, to embrace suffering, to stand up against opposition and take the blows he would inevitably be dealt—to die for the truth if necessary. If you aren't willing to do that, you need to get out of ministry.

Next: "Do the work of an evangelist." It's easy in this context to know exactly what Paul was saying. It translates to this: preach the gospel. See, all of this is about preaching. "Preach the Word." Preach the whole counsel of God. And keep the gospel at the center of the message, which is to say keep Christ at the center of the message; and in other words, keep the story of redemption at the center of the message—because that is after all the only true and sound way to interpret Scripture. "Do the work of an evangelist." Proclaim the gospel, and never lose sight of it.

The final imperative wraps it all together: "Fulfill your ministry." How do you fulfill your ministry? By preaching the Word in the way described by all those imperatives combined. Paul has come full circle.

Conspicuously absent are all of the fad-words that fill the vocabularies of church planters and missional strategists today. Nothing about innovation; nothing about "cultural engagement"—except for engagement in warfare against the fads and innovations of a generation whose main features are itching ears and a lust for novelty. That is the chief kind of cultural engagement we're called to: to engage our culture in the sense David engaged Goliath.

And you know what? That is the proper medicine for itching ears.

The remedy for itching ears is not ear-tickling and story-telling. The true remedy is the faithful and forceful preaching of God's Word, which is "Living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Paul wasn't commanding Timothy to do anything unique or extraordinary. Paul himself had done all those things, faithfully and consistently for years, despite every conceivable type of trial and opposition. The apostle gives testimony to that fact in verses 6-7: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

I fear the church today is dangerously low on men who will honestly be able to say that when the time comes.

03 January 2016

Beware of the walking dead!

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 755, "Alive or dead--which?"
"Let us take care that we do not become contaminated by the corruption of the dead." 

You who have the Son of God, mind that you are not injured by those who have not the Son. We have heard of such accidents when the anatomist has been making an examination of a dead body: he has been prying with his scalpel among the bones, and nerves, and sinews, and perhaps he has pricked his finger, and the dead matter has infected his blood, and death has been swift and sure. 

Now, I have heard of some professed Christians, wanting to see, they said, the ways of the ungodly, going into low places of amusement, to spy out the land, to judge for themselves. Such conduct is dangerous and worse. 

My dear friends, I never found it necessary, in my ministry, to do anything of the kind, and yet I think I have had no small success in winning souls. I must confess, I should feel very much afraid to go into hell, to put my head between the lion's jaws, for the sake of looking down his throat. 

I should think I was guilty of a gross presumption if I went into the company of the lewd and the profane to see what they were doing. I should fear that perhaps it might turn out that I was only a mere professor, and so should taint myself with the dead matter of the sin of those with whom I mingled, and perish in my iniquity. 

"Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing!" The resort of the ungodly is not the place for you. "Let the dead bury their dead, but as for thee," said Christ, "follow thou me."

If we must in this life, in a measure, mingle with the dead, let us take care that we never suffer the supremacy of the dead to be acknowledged over the living. It would be a strange thing if the dead were to rule the living: the dead must be laid into their coffins, and put away in their narrow cells according as the living may decree. 

Yet sometimes I have seen the dead have the dominion of this world; that is to say, they have set the fashion, and living Christians have followed. The carnal world has said, "This is the way of trade!" and the Christian man has replied, "I will follow the custom." Christian, this must not be. 

"Ay, but," saith one, "I must do as others do, for you know we must live." This also is not true, for there is no necessity for our living; there is a very great necessity for our dying sooner than living, if we cannot live without doing wrong. O Christian, you must never endure that corruption should conquer grace. 

By God's grace, if you get at all under the power of custom, you must cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" You must wrestle till you conquer, and cry, "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

01 January 2016

Thoughts and questions along the church-size trajectory

by Dan Phillips

Happy new year. I think it's good that we start the year facing some of these questions together.

In my previous post I broached the question of church size and trajectory. Fond as I am not of verbosity, let's cut straight to what I hope are useful guidelines, questions, and answers.

My preface to these is that they are for you and me. I'll either ignore or delete questions like "So are you saying that _____'s church is too big/small?" I want you to apply this directly to your forehead. The happiest results I am aiming at are these:
  1. Some leaders of churches that are big enough or oversized will conclude it's time to invest resources and personnel for planting daughter-churches in other locations. Note: "daughter churches," with their own pastoral leadership, preaching, and all.
  2. Some attenders of massively oversized churches will conclude that a better stewardship of their gifts would be to find churches that are under-supported, rather than remain in a church where they are redundant by a factor of fifty.
  3. People searching for a church will repent of their consumer mentality and look along Biblical guidelines.
  4. Some leaders of smaller churches will find their spirits refreshed and be encouraged to stay the course and redouble outreach efforts.
  5. Some attenders of smaller churches will repent of their inwardness, complacency, and indulgent laziness, and will catch fire for reaching out with the Gospel and with their church's ministry of the Word, and will permeate their local church with the investment of their gifts and time.
That said, then:

For Larger Church Leaders
  1. What is "enough"? You know the Greek word translated "greed" or "covetousness" means simply wanting more. Can a church ministry be greedy? Are you sure that you are not erecting a monument to a gifted speaker, destined to be tomorrow's hollow, dead European cathedral, or compromised by the need to replace your current personality with an equal or greater crowd-drawer/bill-payer? This flows right into:
  2. Why do you need more than a total of 217 people? That's a number I've plopped out there for years as the ideal church size, a bit more than half-seriously. But really: at around that number, you're large enough that you have the resources for some serious and worthwhile ministries, and still you're at a size where everyone could know everyone, and pastors could really pastor. Why do you need to be larger? How much larger? And while I'm asking...
  3. Is your main talking head a pastor? Do you remember that Jesus describes a good pastor as one who knows his sheep by name, cares personally for them, is personally known by his sheep, and is willing to lay down his life for them (Jn. 10:3-5, 11-14). What percentage of the people he lectures does your speaking head know like that, serve like that? At what point of disparity do you conclude that it is no longer best either for him or them? Is he actually baptizing people he's never met, let alone heard their testimony? Which also flows right into:
  4. Is your main talking head amassing, or reproducing? Remember that Paul always took apprentices, and he gave them lots to do. He even "shared billing" with them in writing his epistles (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1, etc.). He famously told Timothy, "what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Who are your head personality's apprentices? Should he go to Jesus or a larger church today, who steps in? Which flows right into:
  5. Are you keen on making your church as large as it can be, or on 
    spreading the ministry of the Word of God as broadly and deeply as you can?
     The latter, in my judgment, is the Biblical view (see first post and Acts' refrain). So these men your lead speaker should be apprenticing, are they regularly being sent to found other churches 10, 15, 20 and more miles from you? Are people from your congregation being called on to move and/or otherwise relocate to support these ministries?
  6. Are there any passages, Scriptures, subjects, or activities that you are avoiding because of the negative impact it would have on attendance/prestige/cash-flow? Do you even need me to expand on that (Acts 20:27; 1 Tim. 5:21)?
For Larger Church Attenders
  1. Are you attending your church primarily for what it does for you, or for what you can do for it? Or perhaps because it actually doesn't need you to do anything because there are already 10, 30, 100 volunteers ready to do what you can do? Can you coast because it's so big? Just go, have a great time watching a famous guy talk about God, select who you spend time with and to what depth, and get back to your schedule? Are you there as a consumer... while probably deriding consumerism when it comes to people like Warren, Hybels, Furtick and so on?
  2. How are you investing your "talent"? Using Matthew 25:14ff., are you using yours somewhere where it's really needed and significant, or are you keeping it safe and sound because a dozen others already do it better anyway? Are churches around you struggling and scraping while yours sits atop multiple layers of redundancy? Which spirit more glorifies God and answers to the constant Biblical calls to give, stretch, sacrifice, love, extend?
  3. How long would it be before you were even missed?
  4. Do you care more about the spread of the ministry of the Word, or about you being comforted and coddled by well-stocked easy-reach shelves full o' goodness?
For Smaller Church Leaders
  1. What is enough? Is it possible that your equally-faithful, equally-Christ-exalting, equally-Bible-teaching ministry is not being multiplied like Pastor Famoushead simply because that's God's will for your area, or because God sees you would be tempted beyond what you're able, simply because you aren't Pastor Famoushead? Is it possible that he's up to the pressure, and you just aren't, and the size of your charge is a divine kindness to you and to them?
  2. Do you mistake smallness for purity? (See first post.) You shouldn't.
  3. Have you given up? (See first post, and 2 Tim. 1:6-8, Greek.) You mustn't.
  4. Have you done all you can to reach the lost in your area? You probably haven't.
  5. Are you setting an example of outreach for your people? You should.
  6. Are you setting an example of hospitality? You should.
  7. Have you tried to teach your folks a Biblical vision of outreach with the Word? You must.
  8. Are you investing in finding, encouraging, and cultivating reproducers in your fellowship? (This book is a great help.)
  9. While you are still relatively small, are you exploiting that very smallness to build stronger, deeper relationships with those presently under your care? Beware sacrificing the unsatisfying but potential-laden present for the elusive utopian future.
  10. Do you thank God that there's anybody who wants to hear you do what you love best? Because you really should.
For Smaller Church Attenders
  1. Are you content, or even happy, that your church does not grow despite being surrounded by lost or ill-taught and deceived souls? Would you be just as happy if your church never lost or added one person, or baptized one convert? Because you really shouldn't be (see first post). You should repent, pray earnestly, change.
  2. Whose job is it, primarily, to expand the witness and ministry of your church? Would your most candid response to my first question, "No, I really would like to see the pastor and other people bring in more of the right sort of person"? Or perhaps, "No, I really do hope Something does Happen, and more people happen by, wander in, and decide to stay"? After you do answer, read Romans 1 and 1 Thessalonians 1, and see if you need to revise your answer. Then read Ephesians 4:15-16, and reconsider. Leading to:
  3. Are you doing your job faithfully? Do you evangelize, at work and while shopping and at home? How many friends have you told about how much you love your church and why, and have you invited, and have you brought? In the last month, the last year, the last five years? Or do you imagine that's someone else's job?
  4. Do you look for newcomers when they actually do come, and make it your job to make them welcome and show them love?  Who is Romans 12:13 addressed to, do you think?
  5. Is it more important to you to sit in "your" pew, or to sit with someone who could use the blessing of being shown love?
  6. Do you attend your church prayer meetings, and is your voice heard regularly crying out to God to use your church's ministry to save the lost and disciple the saved? Are you a subscriber to the theories of the importance of corporate prayer and of sovereign grace, while never gathering corporately to beseech God to move in sovereign grace?
  7. Do you do what the leaders can't do? Is the Word being preached and taught clearly, deeply, effectively, transformationally, to God's glory? Is Christ exalted in the church's priorities and ministries? Do your leaders follow Christ and love those they care for with integrity? If so, your leaders can't very well go around saying so, can they? ("Come to my church, I really preach the Word deeply and effectively!") So, do you?
I hope you find equal measures of help, head-scratching, and challenge in those thoughts. And by next Monday, everything will be different!


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