Friday, May 19, 2006

Closing Thoughts: Timeless Words on Emergent from C.H. Spurgeon

Excerpts from “The Need of Decision for the Truth”

A College Address, by C. H. Spurgeon

From the March 1874 Sword and Trowel Magazine

We have a faith to preach, my brethren, and we are sent forth with a message from God. We are not left to fabricate the message as we go along. We are not sent forth by our Master with this kind of general commission—" As you shall think in your heart and invent in your head as you march on, so preach. Keep abreast of the times. Whatever the people want to hear, tell them that, and they shall be saved." Verily, we read not so. There is something definite in the Bible.

We ought to preach the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of God—the testimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste of this modest century, but never having been employed to originate the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach. If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position.

Brother, if the truth be in thee it will flow out of thine entire being as the perfume streams from every bough of the sandal-wood tree; it will drive thee onward as the trade-wind speeds the ships, filling all their sails; it will consume thy whole nature with its energy as the forest fire burns up all the trees of the wood. Truth has not fully given thee her friendship till all thy doings are marked with her seal.

Above all we must show our zeal for the truth by continually, in season and out of season, endeavoring to maintain it in the tenderest and most loving manner, but still very earnestly and firmly. We must not talk to our congregations as if we were half asleep. Our preaching must not be articulate snoring. There must be power, life, energy, vigor. We must throw our whole selves into it, and show that the zeal of God's house has eaten us up.

Mere skimmers of the word, who, like swallows, touch the water with their wings, are the first to fly from one land to another as personal considerations guide them. They believe this, and then believe that, for, in truth, they believe nothing intensely.

And now, lastly, why should we at this particular age be decided and bold? We should be so because this age is a doubting age. It swarms with doubters as Egypt of old with frogs. You rub against them everywhere. Everybody is doubting everything, not merely in religion but in politics and in social economics, in everything indeed. It is the era of progress, and I suppose it must be the age, therefore, of unloosening, in order that the whole body politic may move on a little further. Well, brethren, as the age is doubting, it is wise for us to put our foot down and stand still where we are sure we have truth beneath us.

The truth is that a few, a very few, thoughtful men, whose thinking consists in negation from first to last, and whose minds are tortured with a chronic twist or curve, which turns them into intellectual notes of interrogation, have laid the basis of this system; these few honest doubters have been joined by a larger band who are simply restless; and these again by men who are inimical to the spirit and the truths of Scripture, and together they have formed a coterie, and called themselves the leaders of the thought of the age. They have a following, it is true; but of whom does it consist?

People who never heard of Strauss, of Bauer, or of Tubingen, are quite prepared to say that our Savior was but a well-meaning man, who had a great many faults, and made a great many mistakes; that his miracles, as recorded in the New Testament, were in part imaginary, and in part accountable by natural theories; that the raising of Lazarus never occurred, since the Gospel of John is a forgery from first to last; that the atonement is a doctrine to be scouted as bloody and unrighteous; that Paul was a fanatic who wrote unthinkingly, and that much of what bears his name was never written by him at all. Thus is the Bible rubbed through the tribulum of criticism from Genesis to Revelation, until, in the faith of the age in which we live, as represented by its so-called leaders, there are but a few inspired fragments here and there remaining."

When a prophet comes forward he must speak as from the Lord, and if he cannot do that, let him go back to his bed. It is quite certain, dear friends, that now or never we must be decided, because the age is manifestly drifting. You cannot watch for twelve months without seeing how it is going down the tide; the anchors are pulled up, and the vessel is floating to destruction. It is drifting now, as near as I can tell you, south-east, and is nearing Cape Vatican, and if it drives much further in that direction it will be on the rocks of the Roman reef. We must get aboard her, and connect her with the glorious steam-tug of gospel truth, and drag her back. I should be glad if I could take her round by Cape Calvin, right up into the Bay of Calvary, and anchor her in the fair haven which is close over by the cross. God grant us grace to do it. We must have a strong hand, and have our steam well up, and defy the current; and so by God's grace we shall both save this age and the generations yet to come.


Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Care to add context? In fact, Spurgeon did NOT say this words about Emergent or the emerging church, therefore it would be helpful if you were to fill in the blanks as you see them. Thanks.


kerux said...

Hi Jamie,
You are right, I should have added more. When I presented the paper I included the comment verbally that this is a series of quotes from a sermon Spurgeon preached in 1874 that, in my mind, demonstrates that there is really nothing new under the sun. What I mean is that you could take these words, update the actual vocabulary, remove all time referents and quite easily apply it to much that is emergent.
When Spurgeon was calling for "decision" he was meaning "steadfastness" to the Word of God. As I proposed in the paper, that is my greatest concern with emergent trends... a drifting away from sola scriptura.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

So, then, this isn't really a critique of emergent trends, but really a broader critique of any expression of Christianity that drifts from one interpretation of sola scriptura, right? I am not trying to be difficult, but I know thousands of people who wouldn't accept sola scriptura as you have presented it here, but are anything but emergent. I appreciate your critique, but again feel it is too broadly painted.

Thanks for the explanation.


Anonymous said...


Is a PDF file of your entire paper available? Where could I get it to download?


kerux said...

Send me an email at with your return email address and I will be glad to forward you a pdf version.

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