07 December 2008

The Reason for the Season

In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.”

He totally missed the big news—man had flown!

Though many, much like the newspaper editor, miss the point of Christmas, the reason for it was declared clearly by the angel: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

A Saviour has been born. That’s the reason for the season.
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour.

It was to save sinners that Christ Jesus came into the world. He did not come to help them save themselves, nor to induce them to save themselves, nor even to enable them to save themselves. He came to save them!

Augustine relates what that saving work meant for Jesus:

“The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born in time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day for His human birth. In the bosom of His Father He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day.

“The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.

“To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits.”

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season as you remember Jesus our Saviour!

19 November 2008

The Lord is Good and so are His people

If we have tasted the Lord’s goodness, then we can certainly share the Lord’s goodness.
When we recognise that the Lord has given His finest to the undeserving, we learn that our acts of kindness don’t rely on whether or not the recipient deserves our kindness.
God’s goodness is evident.
God’s goodness is super abundant.
Our actions are subsequent to a prior relationship.
Our kindnesses reflect our Father’s behaviour.
Our human responsibilities flow from our God-directed love and obedience.
The foundation for all Christian activity is love for God and Humanity
Love Verses:
Mt 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Is 53:4-6 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Is 53:12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Mt 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mk 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Ro 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

2 Co 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Ga 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Eph 5:2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Ti 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

1 Ti 1:16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

1 Pe 2:24-25 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Thinking Like a Farmer

Here's an article written to the folks gathered at Trinity Road Chapel and published in our church magazine, The Witness:

My parents had the opportunity to grow up on small farms. After my father’s mother died, my grandfather closed off a career teaching maths and took up farming. And my mother’s family supplemented their income and food stocks by alternately renting out sections of property or farming it themselves. Though I grew up in a military family and travelled the globe, I had opportunity to summer on the family farms and participated in the labour, planting, weeding, fertilising, harvesting and storing various crops of maize, soybeans, potatoes and tobacco, along with several sessions in the fields and barns baling and putting up hay.

I learned much from those experiences. Three lessons relating to those experiences connect well to the task of reaching the lost and I think are helpful for all of us to keep in mind in our efforts to reach our area with the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Work Tirelessly

I now have fond, almost romantic, memories of my joining in with my relatives on the farm, but the reality was far different. I spent many hot, humid and monotonous days carrying out back-breaking work. In order to ensure a crop at the other end of the season, a lot of work had to happen before the crops were planted. And harvest proved tiring as well. Many summers my cousins and I worked cutting, raking, baling and putting up hay. Stacking 40-80 pound bales of hay in a steamy barn loft at the peak of a summer day made me feel like every ounce of moisture in my body was draining out my pores!

If we desire a harvest of souls for the glory of Christ in our district and throughout London, we must labour. The industrious farmer starts his hard and demanding work early and quits late. He endures the cold, the heat, the rain, and the drought. He plows the soil whether it is hard or loose. He does not wait for his own convenience, because the seasons do not wait for him. When the time comes to plant, he must plant; when weeds appear, he must remove them; and when the crop is mature, he must harvest it. What drives the man to such hard toil is the harvest. And I can think of no better harvest than eternal souls won for God’s glory. Let us labour then!

Wait Patiently

During those long days of effort, day after day, the farmer understands that harvest is still far off and no fruit will be enjoyed for months to come. But the farmer has come to learn that today’s dry efforts are what bring tomorrow’s bounty.

Our days in gospel work are often seemingly fruitless. But that is no reason to quit or to grow weary of the work. We must continue on, working and waiting patiently for God to give the increase to all our efforts, just as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.

We are called to bear witness to the lost about the saving grace of God in Jesus. And am delighted to hear many of you talk about and pray for the people you are helping to see their need of the Saviour. Keep up the good work, and just like the farmer, bear patiently through the dry harvestless days. Learn that there are no such things as quick results. Work and wait. You must sow the good seed of the word into hearts and minds. John Calvin reminds us:

If husbandmen do not spare their toils, that one day they may obtain fruit, and if they patiently wait for the season of harvest; how much more unreasonable will it be for us to refuse the labors which Christ enjoins upon us, while he holds out so great a reward?

Living Expectantly

Harvest time does come! We may plant and we may water, and not see any visible return on the investment for a long time or perhaps even in our lifetime, but the increase in the field will come from the Lord.

18 November 2008

A Night Walk Around London Town

London Night Walk_0001, originally uploaded by Doug McMasters.

Visit here for some snaps of my favourite city.

James White finishes his trip to London

We had an excellent time with James White from Alpha and Omega Ministries. His debating, preaching and teaching in London stand as highlights to us for 2008. And the serious and fun talks we shared were most enriching and enjoyable.

12 November 2008

Give Your All to Jesus by Charles Spurgeon

This is, practically, a promise that, by diligent meditation and the giving up of our whole mind to our work for the LORD we shall make a progress which all can see. Not by hasty reading but by deep meditation we profit by the Word of God. Not by doing a great deal of work in a slovenly manner, but by giving our best thought to what we attempt, we shall get real profit. "In all labor there is profit" but not in fuss and hurry without true heart-energy.

If we divide ourselves between God and mammon, or Christ and self, we shall make no progress. We must give ourselves wholly to holy things, or else we shall be poor traders in heavenly business, and at our stocktaking no profit will be shown.

Am I a minister? Let me be a minister wholly and not spend my energies upon secondary concerns. What have I to do with party politics or vain amusements? Am I a Christian? Let me make my service of Jesus my occupation, my lifework, my one pursuit. We must be in-and-in with Jesus, and then out-and-out for Jesus, or else we shall make neither progress nor profit, and neither the church nor the world will feel the forceful influence which the LORD would have us exercise.

09 November 2008

We Will Remember Them

Pericles’ funeral oration, spoken well over 2,000 years ago at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War, charges us to remember our fallen in war:

Each has won a glorious grave - not that sepulchre of earth wherein they lie, but the living tomb of everlasting remembrance wherein their glory is enshrined. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of heroes. Monuments may rise and tablets be set up to them in their own land, but on far-off shores there is an abiding memorial that no pen or chisel has traced; it is graven not on stone or brass, but on the living hearts of humanity.

Take these men for your example. Like them, remember that prosperity can be only for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.

03 November 2008

James White debating in London

Trinity Road Chapel is joining other churches in hosting a number of formal debates between James White and various Islamic scholars. The topics chosen for these moderated, formal debates will give opportunity to make known essential areas of difference between Christians and Muslims. And James White, an accomplished apologist and debater, will make those differences known very clearly and in an irenic manner.

Can you help us spread the news of these debates and teaching opportunities? Please distribute this email and the flyers as widely as you can—pass them along to others you think may have an interest.

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries (visit www.aomin.org), a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of more than twenty books, a professor, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. James has been married to Kelli for more than twenty-five years, and has two children, Joshua and Summer. He is an accomplished debater, having engaged in more than sixty moderated, public debates with leading proponents of Roman Catholicism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormonism.

Trinity Road Chapel, Upper Tooting, London is hosting the following events:

8 PM Thursday, 13 November 2008 Debate
James White vs. Sami Zaatari: "Jesus: Divine Son of God or Prophet of Allah?"

8 AM Saturday, 15 November 2008 Men's Breakfast
James White will join us at our men's breakfast.

10 AM Saturday, 15 November 2008 Ministry Morning
An open session for all. James White will speak on the topic "Defending the Faith without Apology."

11AM and 6:30PM Sunday, 16 November 2008 Preaching
James White will be preaching at TRC.

Trinity Road Chapel, 205-207 Trinity Road, Upper Tooting, London SW17 7HW. Contact admin@trinityroadchapel.org or visitwww.trinityroadchapel.org for more details.

We also welcome everyone to attend the other debates by James in London:

Tuesday, 11 November 2008
James White vs. Adnan Rashid: "Does Belief in the Trinity Necessitate Shirk?"
Westbourne Park Church, Porchester Rd, London, W2 5DX

Monday, 17 November 2008
James White vs. Shabir Ally: "Is Jesus prophesied in the OT?" and "Is Muhammad prophesied in the Bible?"

7:30pm at Twynholm Baptist Church, Fulham Cross, 324-326 Lillie Road, Fulham, London, SW6 7PP. Contact leigh@twynholm.org or visitwww.twynholm.org for more details.

03 October 2008

Do You Love Divine Worship?

The following quote from John Owen really set my heart to thinking:

That all true believers, whose minds are spiritually renewed, have a singular delight in all the institutions and ordinances of divine worship is fully evident, both in the examples of the saints in the Scripture and their own experience, which they will never forego; for this hath been the greatest cause of their suffering persecution, and martyrdom itself, in all ages. If the primitive Christians under the power of the pagan emperors, or the witnesses for Christ under the antichristian apostasy, would or could have omitted the observance of them (according to the advice and practice of the Gnostics), they might have escaped the rage of their adversaries. But they loved not their lives in comparison unto that delight which they had in the observance of the commands of Christ as unto the duties of evangelical worship.

David gives us frequently an instance hereof in himself:

Ps. 62:1–4, “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.”

Ps. 63:1–5, O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips”

Ps. 84:1–4, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.”

John Owen, Vol. 7: The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (430).

04 September 2008

Look to Jesus

So then, from this we must gather that to profit much in the holy Scripture we must always resort to our Lord Jesus Christ and cast our eyes upon him, without turning away from him at any time.

You will see a number of people who labor very hard indeed at reading the holy Scriptures -- they do nothing else but turn over the leaves of it, and yet after ten years they have as much knowledge of it as if they had never read a single line. And why? Because they do not have any particular aim in view, they only wander about. And even in worldly learning you will see a great number who take pains enough, and yet all to no purpose, because they kept neither order nor proportion, nor do anything else but gather material from this quarter and from that, by means of which they are always confused and can never bring anything worthwhile. And although they have gathered together a number of sentences of all sorts, yet nothing of value results from them. Even so it is with them that labor in reading the holy Scriptures and do not know which is the point they ought to rest on, namely, the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Calvin, Sermon on Ephesians 2:19-22 (1559).

22 August 2008

Allyson Felix in The Times of London

Follow this link to read an encouraging article about Allyson Felix, a competitor for the USA in athletics who is also representing the Lord Jesus. I had the privilege in seminary of sitting under her father's teaching for much of my NT Greek.

(HT to Eckhard Pecher for the photo)

21 August 2008

A Published Photograph

My image of Castle Coombe is now published, my first, at this guide to Bath:

20 July 2008


Matterhorn, originally uploaded by Doug McMasters.

Royale and I just returned from a week in Switzerland. My photos are being posted to Flickr if you're interested in seeing them.

20 April 2008

Quotable: Urgency

If you want to understand Christianity, do not shut your Bible—open it, read it! Read the books of Moses, the prophets, the Psalms; they all point to Him. Study your Bible. It is ignorance that blinds men and women of this generation and keeps them outside of Christ. So do not have a hurried service at nine o’clock so you can go out and play golf and bathe in the sea—listen for your life! Here is the only message of hope for you.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity

19 April 2008

Under Construction

The Manse is receiving a new kitchen, which is exciting (track the progress here). But it is also consuming some of my time, leaving me unable to post the Sword and Trowel excerpts as speedily as desired. Soon I'll add more.

Laid to Rest

What's that smell?

A gift from the Continent.

Commit this Quote to Memory

Do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument—I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.

Robert Murray McCheyne

12 April 2008

Silly Sign Sighting

While travelling about recently, I noticed a couple silly signs that amused me.

Seen in East Sussex:

"Toads on the Road"

Seen outside an Italian restaurant across from Charing Cross Hospital:

"15% discount for medical students, nurses and patients with 45 stitches."

11 April 2008

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones now on Oneplace.com

Here's some news I am quite excited to share. The MLJ Recordings Trust, with a dedicated North American website and the original UK website, has made agreements with OnePlace.com to carry a new weekly broadcast of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, titled Living Grace.

I'm confident you will appreciate hearing MLJ preach; perhaps even more than you've appreciated reading him. There's even an option to subscribe to the podcast--I've just put mine into iTunes so I don't miss a single broadcast.

If you have a blog, would you take a moment and post a notice of this news so others can take in the treasure of preaching now available?

If you don't know much about MLJ, here's a short paragraph about him, taken from the OnePlace.com website:

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Living Grace

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981) has been described as 'a great pillar of the 20th century Evangelical Church'. Born in Wales, and educated in London, he was a brilliant student who embarked upon a short, but successful, career as a medical doctor at the famous St Bartholemew's Hospital. However, the call of Gospel ministry was so strong that he left medicine in order to become minister of a mission hall in Port Talbot, South Wales. Eventually he was called to Westminster Chapel in London, where thousands flocked to hear his 'full-blooded' Gospel preaching, described by one hearer as 'logic on fire'.

With some 1600 of his sermons recorded and digitally restored, this has left a legacy which is now available for the blessing of another generation of Christians around the world – 'Though being dead he still speaks'.

03 April 2008

Gleanings from an 1894 Sword and Trowel: Spurgeon at a Wedding (part one).

I now introduce to you one of my favourite selections from the 1894 Sword and Trowel—Mr. Spurgeon at a Wedding. The article is doubly sweet; it first gives an account by a Pastors’ College man of Spurgeon conducting his marriage ceremony, and then is followed by a recording of the sermon by the one of the editors of the magazine. (The editing of The Sword and the Trowel was a collaborative effort after Spurgeon died, so I am unsure of who authored the piece.) I’ll include the editor’s introduction and the groom’s account in this post, and will provide the sermon in another.

Here’s the article:

Among the reminiscences of the late beloved President, sent to us, two years ago, by brethren trained in the Pastors’ College, was one which we thought it well to retain until we could give a report of the special service to which the writer alludes. The right time for its publication appears now to have arrived; and the present article will appropriately follow the touching address printed in the last month’s Magazine under the title, Mr. Spurgeon at a Funeral. [I plan to publish that article soon to TheLifeWord.] There, we saw our late dear Editor sympathizing with the sorrowing; here, we think of him as increasing the joy of those who had reached the happiest hour of their lives. Pastor E.A. Hobby of Macclesfield, is the minister referred to, and his note concerning the memorable event is as follows:—

“How well do I remember my last interview with our beloved President! It was on a bright spring morning, in the month of May, 1890, when he came down from ‘Westwood’ to Thornton Heath, to conduct our marriage service in Beulah Baptist Chapel. Having arrived a few minutes before time, we waited for him in the vestry. Presently the door opened, and he entered, with a bright, happy smile upon his face. After a pleasant greeting, in a few kind words he presented my wife with Morning by Morning, in which he had written ‘To Mrs. Hobby, on her wedding day, May 6th, 1890, with best wishes and prayers of C. H. Spurgeon,’ and Evening by Evening, containing the inscription, ‘The Lord bless thee and keep thee!’ He also gave me a morocco-bound Revised New Testament, inscribed, ‘With the Christian love of C.H. Spurgeon.’

“After expressing our hearty thanks, we adjourned to the chapel, where the ceremony took place. After the legal part of the service was completed, and he had addressed us in some wise, cheery words, he turned to those who had witnessed the ceremony, and made a very touching appeal to the unconverted. What an appeal that was! How our hearts throbbed, and our eyes filled with tears, as the great preacher, in simple, searching, pathetic language pleaded for some soul to yield to Christ as a fitting seal to that happy covenant of love! After the address came the closing prayer,—such a prayer as he alone could offer; it was full of yearning for souls, gratitude for the Lord’s goodness, and holy unction.

“It is needless to say that we thanked our beloved President very heartily for his great kindness; but he persisted in saying that the obligation was on his side, thanking us for coming such a great distance to be married by him, and then adding, ‘Would you like an hour at “Westwood”?’ Of course we should; and time-tables were soon consulted, and later trains arranged for. So to ‘Westwood’ we went. He did not begrudge us the time, which he could ill afford to spare; but himself conducted us through the greenhouses and grounds. How those plants seemed to speak, as he described them to us! He appeared to be introducing us to friends as well as to flowers; a little tale about one, a sweet promise associated with another, and in a marvellous way he unveiled the works of God in nature. We had all the poetry of Pantheism set to the metre of the personality of God. From the greenhouses we went to the fernery, where we were shown the famous ‘mother-fern’, mentioned in The Sword and the Trowel for December, 1891.

“Last, but not least, we visited the President’s special ‘sanctum’, ‘the den.’ This seemed to us a peculiarly-consecrated room; for there, the man of God held secret communion with his Maker; there the famous Jerusalem blade was sharpened for the fray; there, the mighty warrior buckled on the breastplate of righteousness, and was shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Fain would we linger in this heavenly atmosphere; but time forbids. We must say, ‘Farewell,’ and feel thankful for the unexpected pleasure of spending an extra hour with the one we love so well. As we pass out, through the casement by which we entered, I turn for a parting glance, and breathe an almost inaudible ‘Good-bye.’ The indefatigable toiler was already at work; but his quick ear caught my words, and he responded, ‘Good-bye, dear brother, and God bless you!’ Thus ended my last interview with our beloved President.”

As soon as time allows, I will post the rest of this excellent article. The address Spurgeon gave included a most interesting charge to the wife in anticipation of her future role as the wife of a pastor. Be sure to return to read it.

02 April 2008

Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel: The Sin of Uzza

We have in our day too many among us who commit the sin of Uzza, for they deem that Christianity will suffer greatly unless they bring it into conformity with the ruling taste of society. They alter its doctrines, adorn its worship artistically, overlay its simplicities with philosophy, and its plain speech with oratory, and all with the zealous but presumptuous intent to help Him who needs not such helpers, and to preserve that religion which they only insult by their unbelieving anxiety. We must beware of even imagining that our hand is needed to steady God’s ark. The thought is blasphemy.

C.H. Spurgeon in “The Interpreter.”

Thinking of Retirement? Watch this...

Coming Soon: More 1894 Sword and Trowel Posts

If you are new to my blog, the life word, welcome. The chart above reveals that I’m not accustomed to having so many show up. Phil Johnson’s kind recommendation brought a surge of visits! My dear friend's tip led you here, and I hope what you find will bring you back.

For the next several posts, I plan to continue pulling out sections from an 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowel I acquired. I've listed below the kind of things you’ll find here over the next several weeks. I do hope you’ll return. And, if you like what you see, please bookmark my site, link me to yours and let others know too.

Here’s a sampling of posts coming soon:

Spurgeon’s sermons burned!

A cripple’s recollection of Spurgeon

Spurgeon’s charge at a wedding

Spurgeon preaching a Funeral

Excerpts from otherwise unpublished sermons preached at New Park Street Chapel

Bruised Reeds: Suffering Pastors battling the Downgrade in their Churches (several posts)

Spurgeon’s appeal for Home Mission Evangelists

Tom Spurgeon’s visit to see D.L. Moody in Chicago

Sermons from Mentone

Remembrances and other choice remarks from Mrs. Spurgeon

The Met Tab’s calling of Tom Spurgeon as pastor

01 April 2008

Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel: At the Pastors' College

I’ll never forget my first visit to The Master’s Seminary, over which John MacArthur presides as president. I sat in a theology class taught by George Zemek and took in with sheer delight God’s word expressed so fully, so completely, so passionately.

What would it be like to spend time at the Pastors’ College, where Spurgeon presided as President? One of the former students, Pastor W. D. McKinney, gave this account; remembrances flavoured by the recent and bittersweet loss of President Spurgeon:

All through the week, there was, usually, plenty of hard work for the students. English Literature and Mental Philosophy were taught by the laborious Fergusson. Those who were in his classes had to work, or woe be to them! Gracey, mildly yet firmly, led his men through Greek, Latin, and Elisha Cole’s Divine Sovereignty, till their brows throbbed, and their backs ached. He smiled on the industrious and quietly marked the laggards. Then Mr. Rogers, in the general classroom, conducted us to the fountain-head of Theology. The march was over the old highway of logical and Scriptural reasoning; but, often, “the old man eloquent” would cheer our drooping spirits by rare bursts of matchless oratory. The Vice-President drilled us in Charnock on the Attributes, and then made us grub Hebrew roots till we were as weary as the Israelites in the brickfields of Egypt.

Friday afternoon came at last. The old, familiar clock pointed to three; the door opened on the stroke of the hour, the beloved President appeared, and walked up to the desk, while hands clapped, feet stamped, and voices cheered, till he had to hold up his hand, and say, “Now, gentlemen, do you not think that is enough? The floor is weak, the ceiling is not very high, and I am sure, you need all the strength you have for your labours.”

In those days, the President was in his prime. His step was firm, his eyes bright, his hair raven-black, his voice full of music, pathos, and merriment. Before him were gathered a hundred men from all parts of the United Kingdom, and not a few from beyond the seas. They were brought together by the magic of his name, and the attraction of his personal influence. His fame has gone out into all lands. His sermons were published in almost all languages. Many sitting before him were his own sons in the faith. Among his students he was at his ease, as a father in the midst of his own family. The brethren loved him, and he loved them.

Soon, the floods of his pent up wisdom poured forth; the flashes of his inimitable wit lit up every face, and his pathos brought tears to all eyes. It was an epoch in student-life to hear him deliver his Lectures to my Students. What wide discourse he gave us on the subject of preaching! How gently he corrected faults, and encouraged genuine diffidence! What withering sarcasm for all fops and pretenders! Then came those wonderful imitations of the dear brethren’s peculiar mannerisms,—one with the hot dumplings in his mouth, trying to speak; another, sweeping his hand up and down from nose to knee; a third, with his hands under his coat-tails, making the figure of a water-wagtail. Then the one with his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat showing the “penguin” style of oratory. By this means, he held the mirror before us so that we could see our faults, yet all the while we were almost convulsed with laughter. He administered the medicine with effervescing draughts.

After this, came the wise advice, so kind, so grave, so gracious, so fatherly; then the prayer that lifted us to the mercy-seat, where we caught glimpses of glory, and talked face to face with the Master Himself. Afterwards, the giving-out of the appointments for the next Lord’s-day took place. The dear President read from the letters in his hand, while we listened in expectation. “Here is one from an important church in a large city. They want a brother who must be eloquent, learned, polite, and very pious. Gentlemen, you are all endowed with these qualifications, how can I make a selection? Here, Small, you can go, for you are about the smallest of the lot, and we must keep our large men for the little places; they will be sure to fill them.

“Another brother is wanted for Ireland. There they have killed one already, and made two invalids. Here, Smith, you look tough; start off for the bogs, ‘Come back with your shield, or on it.’

“An extra good brother is called for from Scotland. He must be sound in the faith, and able to live on a pound a week. My thin brother Snooks, will you try ‘the land o’ cakes and heather’? Yes, I knew you needed less than any man in the College; you lived on eighteenpence one week, before you entered. If you get any thinner, come back at once for some English beef and plum-pudding.

“Gentlemen, here is another letter from the ancient church of Puddleton. It has had sixteen men in weekly (weakly) succession. Remember that it is a ‘hyper’ church, and wants at least sixteen ounces to the pound. Who will volunteer? Black is the man. Go, my brother, but be wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove. In the meantime, hold on with both your hands; when they fail, catch hold with your teeth; if they give out, hang on with your eyebrows.

After the letters were disposed of, and the class dismissed for tea, then came the men who wanted advice. Some were in trouble, others in joy; and the President listened patiently to all their tales; anon he would laugh, and then he would weep. At last he is through, “weary in the work, but not weary of it.” His cheery voice gradually dies away as he ascends the stairs to his “Sanctum.” We did not grieve as we parted from him, for we knew that, God willing, on the next Friday afternoon, we should once more see his bright, genial face and hear his wit and wisdom again.

The present students listen in vain for the tones of that wonderful voice in the class-room; they hear only its echoes. He has gone up in the “the unseen holy,” where he awaits his sons in the faith.

Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel; Pastors' College Statistics

Well, after that Fool’s Day diversion, it is time to return to better and more important things. In my reading I came across a report on the Pastor’s College that astounded me. I’ll provide the excerpt from the 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowel and then explain what captured me:

During the past thirty-eight years, nine hundred and nine men exclusive of those at present studying with us, have been received into the College, “of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some (ninety-six) are fallen asleep.” Making all deductions, there are about seven hundred and thirty brethren. Of these, six hundred and fifty-one are in our own denomination as Pastors, Missionaries, and Evangelists.

They may be thus summarized:--

Number of brethren who have been educated in the College...909
Number now in our ranks as Pastors, Missionaries and Evangelists...651
Number without Pastorates, but regularly engaged in the work of the Lord...30
Number not now engaged in the work, but useful in secular callings...28
Number educated for other Denominations...2
Number dead (Pastors, 87; Students, 9)...96
Number permanently invalided...15
Number removed from the College List for various reasons...87

To this “summary” the late beloved President in one of the Reports appended the following note: “The last were not removed from our list in all cases from causes which imply any dishonour, for many of them are doing good service to the common Lord under some other banner. We are sorry for their leaving us, and surprised that they should change their views; but this also is one of those mysteries of human life which are beyond our control.”

We ought to add, that for years past we have lost all traces of many of those referred to, and have reason to believe that several of them are dead.

I would love to hear your reaction to that little article. What amazes me is the high percentage of pastors, missionaries and evangelists that were produced in relation to the number of graduates from the Pastor’s College. I’m not versed in seminary stats, but I am astounded that well over 700 of 909 trained men went into full-time ministry.

What is your estimate of the reasons for that? Please comment.

Flying Penguins: the video

And now for something completely different...flying penguins

Love this item shown this morning on the BBC's Breakfast show. Be sure to watch the video.

Should the story be added to this list, or to this one? Please leave your comments and tell me what you think.

31 March 2008

Spurgeon's charge to Trinity Road Chapel

You’ll discover in volume 28 of C.H. Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit that the last sermon (no. 1697, titled The Word of a King) was preached “at the opening of a new Baptist Chapel, Trinity Road, Upper Tooting.” In an earlier post, I outlined the significant influence Spurgeon had upon the church I serve, Trinity Road Chapel.

After giving three fine points in his sermon about the power of the Word of God, Spurgeon made some direct remarks to our church. His remarks, powerful as they were when first uttered, are just as timely today. They deserve to be heard. No. Rather, they deserve the attention necessary to memorize them. Better yet; they deserve repeated again and again till the whole of the church is saturated with them and welcomes them in their practice.

Here is Spurgeon’s charge to Trinity Road Chapel:

I intend to address myself to all people of God who are associated in church-fellowship, and striving to do the Lord’s service; and to you who will be so associated here. My text is to be used TO DIRECT YOUR EFFORTS.

You need power; not the power of money, or mind, or influence, or numbers; but “power from on high.” All other power may be desirable, but this power is indispensable. Spiritual work can only be done by spiritual power. I counsel you in order to get spiritual power in all that you do to keep the King’s commandment, for “where the word of a king is, there is power.”

Lay not a stone of your spiritual church without his overseeing; do all things according as he has ordained; regard him as the wise Master-builder, and be all of you under the command of his word. The day cometh when much that has been built shall be destroyed, for the fire will try every man’s work of what sort it is. It is very easy to heap up a church with wood, hay, and stubble, which the fire will soon destroy; and it is very hard work to build one up with gold, silver, and precious stones; for these are rare materials, and must be diligently sought for, laboriously prepared, and carefully guarded. The materials that will stand the fire of temptation, trial, death, and the like, are not to be brought together by any word but the word of the Lord; but these alone are worth having.

I had sooner have half-a-dozen Christian people, truly spiritual and obedient to the word of the Lord in all things, than I would have half-a-dozen thousands of nominal Christians who neither care about the word nor the King.

If you want power, keep the King’s commandment, keep close to it in all things, and make it the law of your house and the motto of your flag. Wherein you go beyond the word. you go beyond the power, and wherein you stop short of the word you also stop short of the power. In the King’s word there is power, and you will have power as long as you keep to it: but real power is nowhere else to be found. Let us take care that we do not look elsewhere for power, for that will he leaving the fountains of living waters to hew out to ourselves broken cisterns which hold no water.

I fear that some Christian people have been looking in many other directions for the power which can only be found in the word of the King.

At one time we were told that power lay in an educated ministry; people said, “We must have a minister who knows Greek and Latin: you cannot save souls unless you are familiar with the heathen classics.” This superstition has suffered many a blow from the manifest successes of those whose only language is the grand old Saxon.

Then the cry was, “Well, really, we do not want these men of education; we need fluent speakers, men who can tell a great many anecdotes and stories. These are men of power.” I hope we shall outgrow this delusion also.

The Lord works by either of these classes of men, or by others who have not the qualifications of either of them, or by another sort of men, or fifty sorts of men, so long as they keep to the word of the King, in which there is power. There is power in the gospel if it be preached by a man utterly without education: unlearned men have done great things by the power of the word. The polished doctor of divinity has been equally useful when he has kept to his Master’s word. But if either of these has forgotten to make Christ’s word first and last, the preaching has been alike powerless, whether uttered by the illiterate or the profound.

Others have thought it necessary, in order to have power among the masses (that is the cant phrase), that there should be fine music. An organ is nowadays thought to be the power of God; and a choir is a fine substitute for the Holy Ghost. They have tried that kind of thing in America, where solos and quartets enable singing men and singing women to divide their services between the church and the theater. Some churches have paid more attention to the choir than to the preaching. I do not believe in it. If God had meant people to he converted in that way, he would have sent them a command to attend the music-halls and operas, for there they will get far better music than we can hope to give them.

If there be charms in music to change the souls of men from sin to holiness, and if the preaching of the gospel will not do it, let us have done with Peter and Paul, with Chalmers and with Chrysostom, and let us exalt Mozart and Handel into their places, and let the great singers of the day take the places of the pleaders for the Lord. Even this would not content the maniacs of this age, for with the music-room they crave the frippery of the theater. Combine with philosophy the sweet flowers of oratory and those of Covent Garden, adding thereto the man-millinery and gewgaws of Rome, and then you can exclaim, with the idolaters of old, “These be thy gods, O Israel.”

Men are now looking for omnipotence in toys. But we do not believe it. We come back to this, “Where the word of a king is, there is power,” and while we are prepared to admit that all and everything that has to do with us can be the vehicle of spiritual power if God so wills, we are more than ever convinced that God has spiritual power to give by his word alone. We must keep to the King’s word if we desire to have this spiritual power for the Lord’s work.

Whatsoever you find in Scripture to be the command of the Mug, follow it, though it leads you into a course that is hard for the flesh to bear: I mean a path of singular spirituality, and nonconformity to the world. Remember that, after all, the truth may be with the half-dozen, and not with the million. Christ’s power may be with the handful as it was at Pentecost, when the power came down upon the despised disciples, and not upon the chief priests and scribes, though they had the sway in religious matters.

If we want to win souls for Christ we must use the word of God to do it. Other forms of good work languish unless the gospel is joined with them. Set about reforming, civilizing, and elevating the people, and you will lose your time unless you evangelize them.

The total abstinence movement is good, and I would that all would aid it, but it effects little unless the gospel furnishes the motive and the force. It will win its way in proportion as it is carried on in subordination to the gospel, and is viewed as a means to reach a still higher end. The rod works no wonder till Moses grasps it; and moral teaching has small force till Jesus operates by it. Those who doubt the power of the gospel, and leave it for other forms of hopeful good, leave strength for weakness, omnipotence for insufficiency.

More and more I am persuaded that it is where the word of a King is that there is power, and all the rest is feebleness until that word has infused might into it. Everyone must buy his own experience, but mine goes to prove to me that the direct and downright preaching of the gospel is the most profitable work which I ever engage in: it brings more glory to God and good to men than all lecturing and addressing upon moral subjects. I should always, if I were a farmer, like to sow that seed which would bring me in the best return for my labor.

Preaching the gospel is the most paying thing in the world; it is remunerative in the very highest sense. May your minister stick to the gospel, the old-fashioned gospel, and preach nothing else but Jesus Christ and him crucified. If people will not hear that, do not let them hear anything at all it is better to be silent than to preach anything else. Paul said, and I will say the same, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Then again, if you want power, you must use this word in pleading. If your work here is to be a success, there must be much praying; everything in God’s house is to be done with prayer. Give me a praying people, and I shall have a powerful people. The word of the King is that which gives power to our prayers. I have been requested to preach, in certain places, and I have replied that I could not go. In a little time I have received a letter to remind me that two years before I promised to go. This altered the case: I had no choice. I must go, whether I could or not, for my word was pledged to it. So if you can go to the Lord with his pledged word, and say, “Lord, thou hast said it: thou must do it,” he will be true to his word to you, for there is power in the word of a King.

There is power in accepting that word, in getting it into you, or receiving it. You never keep the truth till you have received this word of a King into your spiritual being, and absorbed it into your spiritual nature. Oh, that you might every one of you eat the word, live on it, and make it your daily food!

And then, there is power in the practising of it. Where there is life through the King’s word, it will be a strong life. The sinner’s life is a feeble life; but an obedient life, an earnest Christian life, is a life of strength. Even those who hate it and abhor it cannot help feeling that there is a strange influence about it which they cannot explain, and they must respect it.

You will see its power in this place; I know you will see it, for you are resolved in God’s strength that it shall he so. You will see its power to fill the place. There is nothing so attractive as the gospel of Christ. If you were to give a man the Tabernacle at Newington, and say to him, “There, you may lecture on geology, astronomy, or any thing you like, twice on the Sunday, and every night in the week as well, if you please, and see if you can keep up a full congregation,” he would fail. The people would not come for any length of time; and yet without any great oratory we preach the gospel again and again, and the people come: they cannot help it. They hear nothing new; it is always the same thing over again, and yet it is never monotonous; there is always a glorious freshness about the gospel. That one silver bell of the gospel has more melody in it than can be drawn from all the bells in all the steeples in the world. There is more sweetness in that one name Jesus than in all the harps of angels, let alone the music of men.

When Jesus Christ’s deity is denied in any chapel, it soon becomes a howling wilderness. If Christ, the son of God, is gone, all is gone. A certain minister preached Universalism, or the doctrine that everybody would be saved in the end, and after a time his chapel became empty. His neighbor, who preached that those who did not believe would be lost for ever, had his house full. One day the Universalist met his neighbor, and asked him, “How is it that the people come to you when you preach that unbelievers will be sent to hell, and they do not come to me though I tell them that in the end they will all be in heaven?” The other replied, “They suspect that what I tell them is true, and that what you tell them is false.” Where gentlemen of this order have been preaching, people have sense enough to come to the conclusion that if what they say is false it is not wise to hear them, and if what they say is true there is no need to hear them.

Certain gentlemen are proving to the world that there is no need of themselves, for if men are not lost what need is there of a preacher to tell them how they can be saved? He that crieth peace and safety, if he be a watchman, might as well hold his tongue. If the watchman woke you up in the middle of the night crying out, “All’s well! A fine starlight night!” you would be very much inclined to exclaim, “Why on earth do you go about disturbing people when there is nothing the matter? Go home and get to bed with you!” And thus these smooth-speaking gentlemen are finding out that they are not wanted, and people are ready to say of them, “Let them go home to bed, and there let them abide.” But on the other hand, if you preach Jesus Christ, and even the terrible things of his word, there will be a fall house, for conscience bids men hear.

When you preach the gospel, souls will be saved. To secure that end you must stick to the gospel, for that is the one means ordained by God for the conversion of sinners. The other day a gospel minister ’spoke to a woman who had attended certain revival services, in which there was much shouting of “Come to Jesus,” but nothing about Jesus. She said, “I heard you preach this afternoon, and if what you preached is true, then I am a lost woman. I have been converted ten times already.”

Ah me! what is the use of such poor work as this? We must teach the King’s word if our work is to be blessed to the salvation of souls. We must plough with the law, and let the people know what sin means, and what repentance means; then we may hopefully sow them with the gospel. Some time ago we were told that there was no need of repentance, and that repentance only meant a change of mind: but what tremendous change of mind true repentance does mean! Never speak lightly of repentance.

Then, too, the preaching of the truth, and the whole truth, will bring a power of union among you, so that you who love the Lord will he heartily united. When Christian people quarrel, it is generally because they do not get sufficient spiritual food. Dogs fight when there are no bones, and church-members fall out when there is no spiritual food. We must give them plenty of gospel; for the gospel has the power of sweetening the temper, and making us put up with one another.

Preach the King’s word, for it will give you power in private prayer, power in the Sunday-school, power in the prayer-meeting, power in everything that you do; because you will live upon the King’s own word, and his word is meat to the soul. The prophet said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” If you try this meat you will all find it is nourishing to you also. The Lord bless you, and grant that it may be so. Amen.

28 March 2008

Searching Words for Churches in our Generation

I came across these words today while searching the internet. After reading them, I left off searching the internet and began an earnest searching of my own heart:

An evil resides in the professed camp of the Lord so gross in its impudence that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate evil for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." That is clear enough. So it would have been if He has added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Then again, "He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry." Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? "Ye are the salt," not sugar candy-something the world will spite out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead." He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His mission, He would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear Him say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!" Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel amusement. Their message is, "Come out, keep out, keep clean out!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, "Lord grant Thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They "turned the world upside down." That is the difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to affect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

C. H. Spurgeon

27 March 2008

Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel, part 2: Gems from an Unpublished Sermon

There's much to gather, even from the very beginning of this volume. The first page starts out with a sermon preached and revised by Spurgeon that is not published (or mentioned, to my knowledge) elsewhere.

The message is titled "The Gleanings of the Olives" and based on Deuteronomy 24:20, "When thou beatest thine olive trees, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow."

The whole of the sermon is filled with helpful information, and the following section contains much for the preacher and church member:

"The divine command may also suggest to us the beauty of a kind consideration of those who are poor and needy in spiritual things. When we are preaching the gospel, we beat down from the olive tree the thick ripe fruit of the doctrines of grace; but we should remember that there are some who, through their weakness in the faith, are not able to participate with us in the higher truths; we ought therefore to remember them, and permit them to share in other portions of the Divine Word more suited to their capacities.

"There should be handfuls let fall on purpose for the trembling and for the desponding; we should not be so strict in the description of character as to hand over every cluster of the spiritual vine to a small company of rich saints, but we should leave branches of the grapes of Eshcol for those whose evidences are dim, whose faith is feeble, and who but for our thoughtfulness concerning them would exclude themselves from all heavenly comfort. It is true that the comfort of the text may chiefly belong to a certain character; but be not so rigid as to shut out the humble souls who dare not put in their claim for a share in it. Leave some olives on the tree. Do not beat the text too closely.

"Nor is the lesson for the preacher only; it ill becomes the hearer of the Word to be always clamorous to be himself fed under every sermon, especially if he is well instructed in the faith, and if a relish for the mysteries of the kingdom has been given to him. He must not be so selfish as to complain when the more elementary truths are preached again and again. What if they do not feed him? Are the olive trees of the Word to be so beaten for him that nothing shall remain for others? Are there not feebler folk who need spiritual sustenance?

"What if he be no longer a babe in grace, and having grown to ripe manhood, is able to digest the strong meat? Yet let him not demand of his Master's servant that he should always set strong meat, and nothing else, on the table. Let the babes be fed with milk even if the man of perfect stature cares not to partake of it. Let the humble soul have his portion; yea, let even the stranger who is within the gates of the Lord's house have a share in the produce of Emmanuel's land.

"We have known some who appeared to be utterly thoughtless of everybody but themselves: their one test of a sermon is their own profiting by it, and they never think that other classes beside instructed believers are to be considered by the true pastor. They demand that we shall beat the olive trees scores of times to get every berry for them alone: they even want us to extort more from our texts than they truly yield, by beating them with the rod of spiritualizing; and meanwhile, the poor in spirit are to be left to shift for themselves, that these 'dear people of God' may be surfeited.

"We scorn to be subservient to their unchristian greed. Misers who hoard their gold are rightly despised; but what shall we say of those who would monopolize the Word of God? Our heart is not in the slightest sympathy with them; we hope ever to leave large gleanings for the poor of the kingdom, and never to gather all the olives for those who are in their own opinion rich and increased with goods.

"In preaching, of what is thought to be a high order, there is too frequently a forgetfulness of the uninstructed. Words are used which are only understood by the cultured, and phrases are employed which are like another tongue to the common people. Where such preaching is natural, we will not indulge a censure upon it; but we earnestly maintain that at least some portions of every religious discourse ought to be so simple that the most illiterate should be able to understand them, and profit by them. There should be some gleanings even for the children, a bunch of grapes for the eager mouth of the hopeful boy, a few olives for the poor aged widow, a handful of corn for the weary labourer, a portion for seven, and also for eight. To forget the lower classes in our ministrations, will be a sin against the Lord.

"It is the glory of the dispensation of Christ that 'the poor have the gospel preached unto them,' yet it would seem in the judgment of too many, to be the glory of the pulpit if its teaching is only suited to the elite, and if the pews around it are never occupied by the peasant or the artizan. We would far sooner use such 'great plainness of speech' as to appear to neglect the refined classes, than that we would be charageable with the 'wisdom of words,' or with casting a veil over the truth so that the multitude are unable to perceive it. O ye masters of Israel, think of this, and in the largeness of your hearts act accordingly!

"Another bearing of the same precept would lead us in our arrangements for public teaching and evangelization, largely to consider those that are without, in the depths of spritual poverty. Provision must certainly be made for Christian people, for their families, and for those who attach themselves to our congregations; yet when this is done, all is not accomplished. Let the olives be well beaten for the household, and let the children have their portion in due season; but we must also think of the stranger, and lay ourselves out for the neglected classes.

"The City of God is not a close borough, imprisoned within gateless walls, within which provender is to be hoarded, while the famine rages without. No, the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations, and the gospel is a feast for those who lie in the highways and the hedges. By some means, the careless crowds must be brought under the sound of the truth; and if they will not come to us, we must go to them, and preach Christ in the marketplace, or even in the theatre and the music-hall.

"No single class should be forgotten, and the poorest and most degraded should lie heaviest upon our hearts. They need the light, and they must have their share of the oil, and of the olives. Some churches appear to beat their trees only for their seat-holders; but it must not be so among us, we must gather together the outcasts of Israel, and have it said of us as it was of our great Examplar, 'Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners to hear Him.'

"The subject grows upon our consideration when we remember the teeming millions of the heathen world, for whom but a few olives are left when the Christian Church is gathering her fruit. Alas! the money spent upon the heathendom is far too little even in proportion to that which is spent at home, and that is none too great. When we are ourselves being fed with the finest of the wheat, can we not spare a sheaf for China? When our faces are made to shine with the annointing oil, have we no oil for India and Japan? And when we are gathering the clusters of Eshcol, and satisfying our mouths with the good things of the Lord's vineyard, have we no grapes for the parched lips of Africa, no draught of wine of consolation for the dying millions of South America? Surely, there is no need to press the point; but, henceforth, Israelites indeed will not plead home claims as a reason for stinting missionary contributions. Leave a fair share of olives for the stranger; and may the Lord therefore send a blessing on the whole olive-yard, according to His wont!

26 March 2008

Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel: A Concerned Letter from Spurgeon to his Students

During the late summer of 1865, Spurgeon's heart laboured over some troubling circumstances brought on by the sinful acts of a pastor sent out from the Pastors' College. Duties surrounding that situation demanded his attention and took him away from a routine meeting with his beloved students. In a letter informing them of his necessary absence, Spurgeon called his students to carefulness and watchful prayer, lest they too succumb to temptation.

I found this letter profitable for its balance, tact, and emphasis on holiness, evangelism and pastoral concern for individuals and churches. I pray you will find it equally helpful:

Nightingale Lane,
September 11th, 1865.

Beloved Brethren,

I am called away from you this afternoon; and I should much regret this if it were not that it has come into my heart to suggest to you to spend our usual time in prayer, instead of in teaching and learning. My heart is often heavy with trials, arising out of the College work, which is so dear to me, that I am perhaps unduly anxious over it. I am bowed to the very dust when I fear that any brother is erring in doctrine, lacking in grace, or loose in behaviour. I have as little to lament as it is possible there should be where we are all such imperfect creatures.

But, my brethren, I would fain have you all the best men living; and when you are not, I am distressed exceedingly. Just now, one brother, by his general self-indulgent habits, has lost the respect of his people, and must move. I do not want to inflict a curse on another congregation, and I do not want to cast him off. Between these two courses I am perplexed. Pray for me, for him, for all the brethren, and for yourselves.

In your society I always feel so much at home, that I must appear to you to be all happiness and mirth. Alas! it is not so; I am happy in the Lord, and blest in Him; but I am often a poor cast-down mortal, groaning under the burden of excessive labour, and sad at heart because of the follies of those whom I hoped to have seen serving the Lord, with zeal and success. Do give me your warmest consideration in your supplications. Believe me when I assure you that you are, for Christ's sake, very dear to me. Do not be led away from the faith which you professed when you entered the College. Cling to the collateral truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Live near to God, and love the souls of men. I make some sacrifices for your sake; but I count them gain, and my work for you is a delight. But do plead for more grace to rest on us all, and upon those settled in the ministry. Levity of conduct in my brethren brings heaviness of heart to me; and, what is inconsistent pleasure to them, is terrible agony to me. Oh, how can the ministers of God be smoking and drinking when souls are dying, and talking lightness and wantoness when sinners are perishing? It must not be so among us. May the Lord prevent it! Seeking ever your soul's best interest, and desiring your fervent prayers,

I am, dearly-beloved brethren,
Your affectionate brother,
C.H. Spurgeon

Now Blogging: Gleanings from 1894 Sword and Trowel.

Yesterday I received in the post a hard-bound copy of the 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowel, the magazine launched and edited by C.H. Spurgeon. As I read through its pages, I will publish various parts I think are worth repeating.

The 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowel comes a mere two years after the Lord called C.H. Spurgeon to his heavenly home. With the loss of that great preacher, pastor and Christian leader, several of his family and friends shared together their grief and reflected back on the influence Spurgeon had on their lives. Thus, the 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowl seems more Spurgeon saturated than earlier issues of the magazine published when Spurgeon was living.

I trust you'll return frequently to read the many profitable items I glean from the 1894 edition of the Sword and Trowel.

Spurgeon and Church Planting Lecture

Last autumn, I had the joy and privilege of giving a lunchtime lecture at the Evangelical Library (78A Chiltern Street, London, W1U 5HB) on C H Spurgeon and the Work of Planting Churches.

An audio copy of the lecture is available here.

We were delighted to find the Banner of Truth mentioning the lecture in its magazine, and Gary Brady providing this encouraging review.

We commend the lecture to you, in the hope that the spirit and heart of C. H. Spurgeon might stir you toward the great gospel work of planting churches.

23 March 2008

Spurgeon and Church Planting, part 2

The Means by which Churches were Planted

Before he died, Charles Spurgeon participated in the establishment of nearly 200 churches in and around London. Of course, he wasn’t alone; with his encouragement, many others acted directly in the effort. In this second instalment, we investigate three places where Spurgeon found help in the work of church planting.

A Sacrificial Church

The folks at the Metropolitan Tabernacle carried their pastor’s burden for church planting and made it a reality through their sacrifice. Before the Tabernacle was even completed, Spurgeon encouraged them to think more broadly,

“We must build this Tabernacle strongly, I am sure, for our friends are always with us….But our desire is, after we have fitted up our vestry, schools and other rooms, that we shall be able to build other chapels.”

One expression of their participation came through their giving. Again, Spurgeon challenged them to stretch forth in faith, while at the same time commending them for their dedication to the work:

“Cheerfully you give week after week for the support of our young ministers, and I think our friends will continue to do this. At any rate the Lord will provide, and friends far away may be moved to assist us. I want still more aid, for the field is ripe and we want more harvest men to reap it. It grows, the thing grows, every day it increases, it started but as a little flake of snow, and now like an avalanche it sweeps the Alps’ sides bare before its tremendous force. I would not now that ye should prove unworthy of the day in which ye live, or the work to which God has called us as a church. Four churches of Christ have sprung of our loins in one year, and the next year shall it not be the same, and the next, and the next, if the Holy Ghost be with us, and He has promised to be with us if we be with Him.”

Perhaps a more significant and sacrificial expression of the church’s commitment to church planting came through sending out the best of the church to establish other churches. A recent biography noted that “Spurgeon encouraged his people to be out carrying the gospel on Sundays. During his career he frequently arranged to have a group of members leave the Tabernacle to start a new church, and often one of the prominent men of the Tabernacle went with them to provide leadership” (Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 1984). On one occasion, 250 of the church people went away into a new church start.

How the church delighted Spurgeon by their missionary zeal! One church member described his encouragement thus, “The Pastor was always pleased when such a battalion left the main army to carry on operations elsewhere.” Spurgeon said,

“It is with cheerfulness that we dismiss our twelves, our twenties, our fifties to form other churches. We encourage our members to leave us to found other churches; nay, we seek to persuade them to do it. We ask them to scatter throughout the land, to become the goodly seed which God shall bless. I believe that so long as we do this, we shall prosper. I have marked other churches that have adopted the other way, and they have not succeeded.”

The Pastor’s College

Spurgeon was 22 years old when he founded the Pastor’s College. Out of his desire to see men prepared to preach the everlasting gospel to a lost world, nearly 900 pastors and evangelists during his lifetime owed their training to the college.

Almost 200 new churches were planted in Britain by the graduates. Dallimore remarks that by 1866, “in London alone the Spurgeon men had formed eighteen new churches...Preaching was carried on at another seven stations, and the plans were that in each of those a church would shortly be organized.”

Of that work, Spurgeon was more than just a figurehead. He participated intimately and sacrificially to see these churches started. Dallimore again states, “Mention has been made of the work of the College students in bringing new churches into being. In all those efforts Spurgeon took a vital interest, giving toward them himself, raising money for them at the Tabernacle, and obtaining helpers for the students from among his people.”

The London Baptist Association

When Spurgeon was 31, he and two other ministerial friends, Charles Brock and William Landels, established the London Baptist Association. The primary purpose for launching the association was the sharing and promoting of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They aimed to plant one new Baptist church per year in London or the surrounding towns. During the first eleven years, sixty-two new churches were founded, fifty-three as a direct result of help from Spurgeon’s students at the Pastor’s College.

Burdened Hearts

Certainly, God blessed the church planting efforts of Spurgeon and his colleagues. The evidence is all around, and much fruit remains to this day. Lest we be tempted to make excuses for the thinness of blessing in our day and speak of how things were different in those days, let us hear the passion and love for God and the lost evident in Spurgeon’s own words, and then ask God to give us that burden too:

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

“Every true Christian should be exceedingly earnest in prayer concerning the souls of the ungodly, and when they are so, how abundantly God blesses them, and how much the church prospers. But beloved, souls may be damned, yet how few of you care about them! Sinners may sink into perdition, yet how few tears are shed over them! The whole world may be swept away by a torrent down the precipice of woe, yet how few really cry to God on its behalf. How few men say, ‘Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I may weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ We do not lament before God the loss of men’s souls, as it well becomes Christians to do.”

“Oh, minister of the gospel! stand for one moment and bethink thyself of thy poor fellow creatures! See them like a stream, rushing to eternity-ten thousand to their endless home each solemn moment fly! See the termination of that stream, that tremendous cataract which dashes streams of souls into the pit!

Oh, minister, bethink thyself that men are being damned each hour by thousands, and that each time thy pulse beats another soul lifts up its eyes in hell, being in torments; bethink thyself how men are speeding on their way to destruction, how “the love of many waxeth cold” and “iniquity doth abound.” I say, is there not a necessity laid upon thee? Is it not woe unto thee if thou preachest not the gospel?”

22 March 2008

A Review of Operation 5-13 in London

Recently Operation 513 came to London and conducted open-air evangelism. Our church was honoured to assist them. One of the particpants, Kevin Williams provides on his blog an excellent review, with several pictures too.

23 February 2008

Spurgeon and Church Planting (part one)

Anyone who attends TRC for any length of time will soon become familiar with the name of C. H. Spurgeon, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Southwark during the latter part of the 19th century. An earlier post to this blog outlined Spurgeon’s significant role in the establishment of TRC as a gospel witness in Upper Tooting, London.

Lest one think that TRC was some prized jewel to Spurgeon, it must be said that several other churches share a similar story to TRC’s. These excerpts from various documents provide a snapshot of the breadth of Spurgeon’s church-planting efforts:

“Enfield Baptist church was founded with help from C. H. Spurgeon in 1867, when services were held in a room over the Rising Sun, Church Street.” “Totteridge Road church was opened with help from Spurgeon in 1868.” “Hornchurch Baptist church: In 1877 the members of the mission formed a church…they sought the help of Spurgeon, who sent students from his Baptist college at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.” “Westminster Baptist Church: Spurgeon preached at the stone-laying and gave £100 to the building fund.” And another church had this record: “Closed 1865, but reopened same year by C.H. Spurgeon.”

Estimates of upwards of two hundred churches were started by Spurgeon, the people of the Metropolitan Tabernacle and the men of the Pastor’s college. In London alone, Spurgeon claimed that over forty churches were started.

A Burdened Pastor

In an address in 1882, Spurgeon revealed his passion for planting churches began early in his London ministry,

Years ago, when I had newly commenced my ministry, I felt a burden from the Lord laid upon me; and this was the nature of it, — I was bound over not only to preach the gospel myself, but to see that others were helped to do the same. In Paul’s word to Timothy I found my own pastoral charge: “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (See 2 Timothy 2. 1, 2.)

A Challenged Church

After eighteen months of being with his new congregation at New Park Street Baptist in London, Spurgeon challenged his church

Now, my dear hearers, one word with you. There are some persons in this audience who are verily guilty in the sight of God because they do not preach the gospel. I cannot think out of the fifteen hundred or two thousand persons now present, within the reach of my voice, there are none who are qualified to preach the gospel besides myself....This is a very serious question. If there be any talent in the Church at Park Street, let it be developed. If there be any preachers in my congregation let them preach.... I have preached this sermon especially, because I want to commence a movement from this place which shall reach others. I want to find some in my church, if it be possible, who will preach the gospel. And mark you; if you have talent and power, woe is unto you if you preach not the gospel.

A Remarkable Start

Spurgeon’s first church plant occurred in East Hill, Wandsworth in 1859, when he was just twenty-five. In an appeal for funds to assist in erecting its building, Spurgeon told how the church plant began,

When I was sore sick some three years or more ago, I walked about to recover strength, and walking through the town of Wandsworth, I thought “How few attend a place of worship here. Here are various Churches, but there is ample room for one of our own faith and order, something must be done.” I thought “If I could start a man here preaching the Word, what good might be done.” The next day, some four friends from the town called to see me, one a Baptist, and the three others were desirous of baptism, “Would I come there and form a Church?” We took the large rooms at a tavern, and preaching has been carried on there ever since. Beginning with four, the Church has increased to one hundred and fifty.

In May 1863 Spurgeon joyfully opened their new chapel, capable of accommodating nearly 700 persons, and costing £3,000, towards which he contributed a considerable amount.

A Shared Passion

At the ceremony of laying the first stone at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on August 16, 1859, Spurgeon opened his heart before the many gathered and made a startling revelation of his earnestness in seeing churches started. After mentioning that the Park Street chapel would remain under the direction of the church and two elders would conduct regular services there, Spurgeon pronounced,

God sparing my life, if I have my people at my back I will not rest until the dark county of Surrey be covered with places of worship. I look on this as the beginning of the end. I announce my own schemes: visionary they may appear, but carried out they will be. It is only within the last six months that we have started two churches — one in Wandsworth and the other in Greenwich, and the Lord has prospered them. The pool of baptism has been stirred with converts. And what we have done in two places I am about to do in a third, and we will do it not for the third or the fourth, but for the hundredth time, God being our helper. I am sure I may make my strongest appeal to my brethren because we do not mean to build this as our nest, and then to be lazy. We must go from strength to strength, and be a missionary church, and never rest until not only this neighbourhood, but our country, of which it is said that some parts are as dark as India, shall have been enlightened with the gospel.

A Wider Appeal

In his eighth year of ministry in London, Spurgeon spoke these words:

I have constantly letters like this, “Sir, I live in a village where the gospel is not preached ....cannot you do something for us? You have many young men training for the ministry, could you not send a friend to preach in my drawing room?” Then comes another — “Sir, the chapel has been shut up in our village a long time, could you not come and help us?” This happens every week, and your minister feels that as long as ever he has a man, he will say, “I will do it for you;” and as long as he has any money of his own he will say, “Oh, yes, I will do it for you;” but every now and then he wishes that he had some who would stand by him in larger attempts.

Sharing the Work

It goes without saying that Spurgeon was but one man and that he wasn’t the sole labourer behind the planting of upwards of two hundred churches in his lifetime. There were four key places Spurgeon found assistance—his own church, other ministries, the Pastor’s College and the London Baptist Association. More will be said about this, Lord willing, in another post.