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.