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.