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Continuing an occasional series on quotes from the Reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, today’s post concerns his insights on Matthew 7:6.
Spurgeon would have used the King James Version of Matthew 7:6:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
The ESV has this version:
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Precept Austin has put together a helpful set of commentary and translation on Matthew 7:6. Spurgeon’s thoughts — as well as Charles Simeon’s — are there. I covered Simeon’s on Tuesday of this week. Both agree that there is a time and a place for a certain manner and depth of preaching.
Spurgeon advised (emphases mine):
There are some holy enjoyments, some gracious experiences, some deep doctrines of the Word of God, which it would be out of place to speak of before certain profane and unclean persons. They would only make a jest of them; perhaps they might persecute you on account of them. No; holy things are for holy men; and as of old the crier in the Grecian temple was wont to say, before the mysteries were performed, “Far hence, ye profane!” so sometimes, before we enter into the innermost circle of Christian converse, it would be well for us to notice who is listening.
Zeal should always be tempered by prudence. There are times when it would be treason to truth to introduce it as a topic of conversation,-when men are in such a frame of mind that they will be sure rather to cavil at it than to believe it. Not only speak thou well, but speak thou at the right time, for silence is sometimes golden. See that thou hast thy measure of golden silence as well as of silver speech.
When men are evidently unable to perceive the purity of a great truth, do not set it before them. They are like mere dogs, and if you set holy things before them they will be provoked to “turn again and rend you”: holy things are not for the profane. “Without are dogs”: they must not be allowed to enter the holy place. When you are in the midst of the vicious, who are like “swine,” do not bring forth the precious mysteries of the faith, for they will despise them, and “trample them under their feet” in the mire. You are not needlessly to provoke attack upon yourself, or upon the higher truths of the gospel. You are not to judge, but you are not to act without judgement. Count not men to be dogs or swine; but when they avow themselves to be such, or by their conduct act as if they were such, do not put occasions in their way for displaying their evil character. Saints are not to be simpletons; they are not to be judges, but, also, they are not to be fools.
Great King, how much wisdom thy precepts require! I need thee, not only to open my mouth, but also at times to keep it shut.
It is a pity to talk about some of the secrets of our holy faith in any and every company. It would be almost, profane to speak of them in the company of profane men. We know that they would not understand us; they would find occasion for jest and ridicule, and therefore our own reverence for holy things must cause us to lay a finger on our lips when we are in the presence of profane persons. Do not let us, however, carry out one precept to the exclusion of others. There are dogs that eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. Drop them a crumb. And there are even swine that may yet be learned; to whom the sight of a pearl might give some inkling of a better condition of heart. Cast not the pearls before them, but you may show them to them sometimes when they are in as good a state of mind as they are likely to be in. It is ours to preach the gospel to every creature; that is a precept of Christ, and yet all creatures are not always in the condition to hear the gospel. We must choose our time. Yet even this I would not push too far. We are to preach the gospel in season and out of season.
Oh! that we may be able to follow precepts as far as they are meant to go, and no further.
Spurgeon spoke to such a wide variety of people — not only in a church or at outdoor appearances, but also in small, conversational settings — that he would have been able to discern who could and could not receive Gospel truths and in what measure.
As with Simeon, he is advising us to assess our audience carefully, even among friends and family. It is important that we not open the Christian faith to ridicule or violence. Let us leave alone those who might react against our speech and wait for an opportune time, as God wills it to His divine purpose.
Next week I will feature an application of Matthew 7:6 in conversation. It’s a true story and one to keep in mind.
Numbers following the quotes refer to the relevant sermon.
Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers, explains why we should seek reconciliation:
Our love ought to follow the love of God in one point, namely, in always seeking to produce reconciliation. It was to this end that God sent his Son. Has anybody offended you? Seek reconciliation. “Oh, but I am the offended party.” So was God, and he went straight away and sought reconciliation. Brother, do the same. “Oh, but I have been insulted.” Just so: so was God: all the wrong was towards him, yet he sent. “Oh, but the party is so unworthy.” So are you; but “God loved you and sent his Son.” 1707.119
That said, even he found certain people trying. These witty insights on strained relationships — the second and the third, in particular — encapsulate the reality of the human condition:
I have known good men with whom I shall never be thoroughly at home until we meet in heaven: at least, we shall agree best on earth when they go their way and I go mine. 1812.653
All good people are not equally good. There are some in the world whom we hope to meet in heaven, with whom fellowship is difficult. If they were on the other side of the Atlantic we might love them better than when we see much of them. I know several Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them on a sofa here below; distance, in their case, might lend enchantment to the view. 2154.387
There are people about who seem to be cut on the cross, and the only use they are in this world seems to be to raise irritating questions. They and the mosquitoes were created by infinite wisdom, but I have never been able to discover the particular blessing which either of them confer upon us. 3199.258
Spurgeon Ministries, based at Bath Road Baptist Church in Kingston, Ontario, says that he preached to 10,000,000 people during his lifetime. One of his sermons at London’s Crystal Palace attracted 23,654 people. He had no microphone or similar means of amplification.
Outside of the Bible, Charles Haddon Spurgeon is still the widest read preacher in the world. One woman was converted when she read a sermon of his which had been wrapped around a block of butter.
Numbers following the quotes refer to the relevant sermon.
Spurgeon gives hope to those of us who see twentysomethings and think they look like 12-year-olds. That’s my criterion for old age!
Without further ado, here is wisdom from the man known as the Prince of Preachers, with much more at the aforementioned link. Emphases mine below:
It is a crime to permit our fires to burn low while experience yields us more and more abundant fuel. AM191
From the altar of age the flashes of the fire of youth are gone, but the more real flame of earnest feeling remains. ME556
O you of forty, fifty, or sixty, what a world of mischief there is in you that will have to come out. 1248.455
Many of God’s aged servants who have been spared to advanced years, have come to look out for the setting of earth’s sun without a fear of darkness. While they have seemed to have one foot in the grave, they have really had one foot in heaven. 1922.537
Old men sometimes arrive at a second childhood. Do not be afraid, brother, if that is your case; you have gone through one period already that was more infantile than your second one can be, you will not be weaker then than you were at first. 2457.137
In the case of some old people, who have been professors of religion for years, but who have done next to nothing for Christ, I find it very difficult ever to stir them up at all. 2618.183
I always find that the older saints become more Calvinistic as they ripen in age; that is to say, they get to believe more and more that salvation is all of grace; and whereas, at first, they might have had some rather loose ideas concerning free-will, and the power of the creature, the lapse of years and fuller experience gradually blow all that kind of chaff away. 2991.287
When somebody said to a Christian minister, “I suppose you are on the wrong side of fifty?” “No,” he said, “thank God, I am on the right side of fifty, for I am sixty, and am therefore nearer heaven.” Old age should never be looked upon with dismay by us; it should be our joy. 3183.72
What a positive way for us oldies to start the week!
Age aside, may all my readers enjoy a blessed day!
Before I move onto quotes from the Prince of Preachers, which are just as relevant today as they were in the 19th century, it is important to keep in mind how much he loved studying and reading. Those Christians who disparage the value of formal education could take a leaf out of his book.
Encyclopedia.com describes his grandfather’s parsonage in Stambourne, Essex (southeastern England). Emphases mine below:
His favorite getaway was in the attic, in a secret little room he stumbled upon one day that had once served as the minister’s den before the windows were covered up. In this dark, little space, Spurgeon discovered countless books and fell in love with Puritan theology.
… Spurgeon particularly loved Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, a Puritan who had been jailed for his beliefs. Over the course of his lifetime, Spurgeon read the book more than 100 times. The attic also contained books on Scriptural theology and Christian martyrs. Reading them provided Spurgeon with a solid theological background.
In the attic, Spurgeon fell in love with reading. In his autobiography, posted on the Spurgeon Archive website, Spurgeon described the impact reading had on him: “Out of that darkened room I fetched those old authors when I was yet a youth, and never was I happier than when in their company.” This fondness for books lasted a lifetime. By the time he was an adult, Spurgeon read an average of six books a week and was well–read in Puritan theology, natural history, and Latin and Victorian literature. At his death, Spurgeon had 12,000 books in his personal library.
The numbers following the quotes below relate to his sermons.
Spurgeon clearly had a good knowledge — and understanding — of history as well as classical mythology, which, sadly, some churchgoers disdain today:
Ambition is like the sea which swallows all the rivers and is none the fuller; or like the grave whose insatiable maw for ever craves for the bodies of men. It is not like an amphora, which being full receives no more, but its fulness swells it till a still greater vacuum is formed. In all probability, Napoleon never longed for a sceptre till he gained the bâton, nor dreamed of being conqueror of Europe till he had gained the crown of France. Caligula, with the world at his feet, was mad with a longing for the moon, and could he have gained it the imperial lunatic would have coveted the sun. It is in vain to feed a fire which grows the more voracious the more it is supplied with fuel; he who lives to satisfy his ambition has before him the labour of Sisyphus, who rolled up hill an ever-rebounding stone, and the task of the daughters of Danaus, who are condemned for ever to attempt to fill a bottomless vessel with buckets full of holes. FA10
There are times in life when ambition can cause us to attempt or covet too much:
He who undertakes too much succeeds but little. PT140
You may burst a bag by trying to fill it too full, and ruin yourself by grasping at too much. PT140
Our endeavours to go up lead us to push others down. 2153.379
A man is never perfectly at peace if he is ambitious, and craving for this or that which as yet is beyond his reach. 2626.280
Men do not quarrel when their ambitions have come to an end. 2281.529
Are we accomplishing things for God’s glory or man’s?
And it is much the same also with ambition,—not the desire to use one’s capacities to the full, especially for God’s glory, and the good of our fellow-creatures; but that craving for so-called “glory” which makes a man court the homage of his fellow-men, and which will not let him be content unless he is set up on a high pedestal for fools to stare at. 2886.268
He had this advice for churchgoers:
Aspire to be something more than the mass of church members. Lift up your cry to God and beseech him to fire you with a nobler ambition than that which possesses the common Christian—that you may be found faithful unto God at the last, and may win many crowns for your Lord and Master, Christ. 867.232
In closing, this is worthwhile for seminarians who hope to rise to the top in their vocation:
Do you not know that the higher you rise, even in the Church of Christ, the more responsibility you have, and the heavier burdens you have to carry? 2871.91
Every time I read Spurgeon quotations I spend a period of time pondering each one. I hope you find them equally valuable.
Today’s entry throws the spotlight on his assessment of the Church of the 19th century and how she — and we today — can achieve unity. There are several quotes at the link. This is one of them:
It is not likely we should all see eye to eye. You cannot make a dozen watches all tick to the same time, much less make a dozen men all think the same thoughts. But, still, if we should all bow our thoughts to that one written Word, and would own no authority but the Bible, the Church could not be divided, could not be cut in pieces as she now is. 307.167
The Bible — divinely inspired — is read and heeded by too few Christians. Some of us prefer delving into religious self-help books, others poetry or modern church music.
Making a silent, personal commitment to reading and studying the truths of the Bible is the best way we can improve our relationship with Jesus, God and our fellow man.
He was a Particular Baptist, meaning that he allied himself with the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which is essentially Calvinist, outside of adult baptism.
He is still widely quoted today and is known as the Prince of Preachers.
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
Spurgeon admirers may already be acquainted with Spurgeon.US, which is a repository of over 4,000 quotes from this great man. The topics are categorised alphabetically. This is truly a treasure trove of Protestant Christianity.
I enjoyed reading what Spurgeon had to say on eternity. A few gems follow. The numbers at the end of the quotes are the sermon numbers. Emphases mine below.
When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time. ME280
Time tries most things, but eternity tries all. 1736.465
Certain men in these days declare that “everlasting” does not mean everlasting, but indicates a period to which an end will come sooner or later; I have no sympathy with them, and feel no inclination to renounce the everlastingness of heaven and other divine blessings in order to gratify the tastes of wicked men by denying the eternity of future punishments. 1186.438
A new way of reading the Bible has been invented in these highly enlightened days. I used to get on exceedingly well with the book years ago, for it seemed clear and plain enough, but modern interpreters would puzzle us out of our wits and out of our souls, if they could, by their vile habit of giving new meanings to plain words. Thank God, I keep to the old simple way; but I am informed that the inventors of the new minimizing glasses manage to read the big words small, and they have even read down the word “everlasting” into a little space of time. Everlasting may be six weeks or six months according to them. I use no such glasses; my eyes remain the same, and “everlasting” is “everlasting” to me whether I read of everlasting life or everlasting punishment. If I clip the word in one place I must do so in another, and it will never do to have a terminable heaven. I cannot afford to give it up here when its meaning is joyous to the saint, and therefore not there when its sound is terrible to the sinner. 1413.271
What saith the Scripture? “Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord”—not, a moment, and then it is all over; but eternal destruction. The Scripture has put the two side by side, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” The same word applies to both. As long as heaven shall shine so long hell shall burn. As long as the saints are happy, so long shall those whose impenitence has made them castaways be wretched. 3324.497
We could do with thousands of Charles Spurgeons today.
Sadly, our seminaries aren’t quite up to creating great evangelists.
Still, let us be thankful we have plenty of Spurgeon material at our disposal.
Whilst interweaving political parties with religion is objectionable at the best of times, similarly, remaining politically ignorant as an individual is equally reprehensible.
There are fine, upstanding churchgoers who think that sullying themselves with political awareness is ungodly or worldly.
However, part of a Christian’s service — love — towards his neighbours involves making a considered, informed decision at the ballot box.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has a useful article for those reluctant to find out more about their elections and candidates: ‘4 Reasons Christians Should Care about Politics’.
Brief excerpts follow, emphases mine (outside of numbered reasons). Please take time to read the article in full.
1. The Christian worldview speaks to all areas of life.
The decisions made by government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them. A Christian worldview should include a political theology that recognizes every area of life must be included in the “good works” of believers, especially politics, an area with significant real-life implications for people.
2. Politics are unavoidable.
Augustine’s City of God offers guidance on this point. Believers are citizens of the “City of God,” but on this side of eternity, we also belong to the “City of Man” and therefore must be good citizens of both cities. There are biblical examples of how membership in the earthly city can be leveraged for furthering the reach of the heavenly. Paul’s appeal to his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37, 22:25) is a model of this.
3. We need to love our neighbor.
In a very real sense, politics is one of the most important areas in which Christians demonstrate love to neighbor. In fact, how can Christians claim to care about others and not engage the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Caring for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and lonely is important to Jesus and should be to His followers as well. Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Good government and laws are not negligible factors in the prosperity and freedom of a society.
- Government restrains evil and promotes good.
Government derives its authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul understood the need for Christian participation in government.
Government plays a role in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. Good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably, whereas bad government fosters unrest and instability. Because of sin, the legitimate institution of government has, at times, been used illegitimately throughout history. However, numerous examples persist of Christians reasserting their influence and redeeming government to promote good and restrain evil.
Political neophytes may begin by asking themselves what immediate issues affect themselves and their families, e.g. jobs, the economy, financial ability to retire, neighbourhood safety, education, public resources.
The next step involves researching political candidates. They don’t necessarily have to be ‘100% Christian’ to serve their district, state or nation well. They need to do the right thing for their fellow citizens.
Most Christians will disagree what this ‘right thing’ is. Those on the left use emotional appeals. Those on the right less so. Those in the centre confuse those on both left and right because their approaches come from both sides: a candidate may advocate a big government policy for one issue and a more conservative one for another.
Let’s think about what we are reading, seeing and hearing. Let’s take time to sift through candidates and issues. Let’s make sure we are studying soundbites in context. To that end, we need to read a variety of news and commentary, not only the resources that fit our personal worldview.
The Southern Baptist article concludes:
Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Referring to Babylon, the prophet recognized that secular government served a legitimate purpose in God’s plan for Israel. This is still true. Today, good governments promote literacy, advance just laws, provide religious liberty and allow churches to preach and teach. Good government can serve as a conduit for the furthering of the gospel and human flourishing.
Politics is important. It is time believers understood it properly.
Coming soon: political resources for every American
Yesterday’s post showed to what extremes his views have been taken by other Protestant clergy and laymen, including church discipline. Yikes!
Yet, not one of them is warning Christians against voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, both of whom are pro-choice. Clinton could also be asked any number of questions on unresolved topics over the past few decades.
Therefore, we appear to be receiving a particular sort of message from Moore and those who agree with him.
Unpacking the message
What a number Southern Baptists saw in Moore’s message was the mention of their denomination. Therefore, many of them are taking to heart the advice not to vote for Trump.
Some Evangelicals saw that his article, or citations of it elsewhere, concerned them. Gosh, they thought, it is time to sit up, read and reconsider.
Moore crafted his message cannily and cynically. In essence, he implies that white Evangelicals are inherently racist, beginning with the title, ‘A White Church No More’.
The body of his op-ed piece — which might have been more relevant in the early 1970s rather than now — includes insults to the intelligence such as:
If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.
No one ever said He did.
The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus …
The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America …
A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock …
Mayberry, for my readers who are not from the US, refers to two 1960s television shows that took place in a fictional small town of the same name: The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. There are very few Mayberries left. America is widely integrated today.
Moore is barking up the wrong tree.
I attended integrated churches — Catholic and, later, Episcopalian — in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. We had Hispanics in the former (suburbs) and blacks in the latter (metropolis). The white congregants made them feel most welcome. They played prominent roles in the guitar Masses (Catholic) or were ushers and greeters (Episcopalian).
I also once attended one of the first big-box Evangelical churches in the area where I lived in the 1970s. There were several black families, all greeted and treated like anyone else in the congregation.
No one cared what colour anyone else was then, nor do they now.
Moore’s Wikipedia entry says that prior to entering the ministry, he was an aide to a Democrat, Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.
On this note, in 2015, Moore interviewed some of the presidential candidates at a missions conference during the summer. Interestingly, he did not issue invitations to fellow Southern Baptists — Republicans — Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. Yet, he invited Methodist Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. She declined.
Regardless of his politics now, deep down he appears to be playing a Democrat game. So do the other men mentioned in this post; go to the linked essays therein and read the comments.
In 2016, as the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Moore opposed the views not only of Trump but also Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. He objected to Cruz’s call for a religious test for refugees wishing to enter the United States. He opposed Clinton’s pro-choice stance.
Then, in March, he wrote, also for the NYT, that Christians should vote for a third-party candidate if faced with Clinton and Trump.
Now — in May — he mentions only Trump and gives Clinton a pass.
There is also the matter of churches making money off of resettling refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States. I saw a news show recently that said that immigration officials know where to direct newcomers. There is a list of local churches and charities who will take them in immediately and begin their resettlement.
Voluntary agencies (Volags) — religious and secular — helping out in this regard are paid by the US government, i.e. the taxpayer. Refugee Resettlement Watch has more, including the following:
Below are some of the sources of income for Volags:
a. $1,850 per refugee (including children) from the State Department.
b. Up to $2,200 for each refugee by participating in a U.S. DHHS program known as Matching Grant. To get the $2,200, the Volag need only show it spent $200 and gave away $800 worth of donated clothes, furniture or cars.
c. The Volag pockets 25% of every transportation loan it collects from refugees it “sponsors”.
d. All Volag expenses and overhead in the Washington, DC HQ are paid by the U.S. government.
e. For their refugee programs, Volags collect money from all federal grant programs – “Marriage Initiative”, “Faith-based”, “Ownership Society”, etc., as well as from various state and local grants.
The program is so lucrative that in some towns the Catholic Church has lessened support for traditional charity works to put more effort into resettlement …
Public money has thoroughly driven out private money.
Therefore, voluntary refugee and immigrant agencies — including churches — make a lot of money from the taxpayer. Readers may consider this at their leisure.
Evangelical churches in the United States
It is unclear as to why Moore works on the presumption that white Evangelicals are, by definition, anti-immigrant.
Evangelicals are truly a broad church and have different affiliations. Some, like the ELCA, are Lutheran. Others are Pentecostal. Others are independent but affiliate with broader Evangelical groups with similarly-minded theology.
Some are inclined towards the Democratic Party, even when they interpret the Bible literally. Others lean Republican but are openly accepting and welcoming of all who attend their churches.
I have read a lot of Evangelical commentary since I started this blog in 2009. I have not read one racist comment from anyone — layperson, elder or minister.
Why Trump is winning the Evangelical vote
Like every other American, Evangelicals also need to put food on the table and clothes in the wardrobe.
They have homes and health insurance to pay for, cars to run and jobs to keep — or find.
Evangelicals are concerned about the future, especially that of their children and grandchildren.
Trump is the only candidate who talks about job creation and improving the economy. Is it any surprise that people, including Evangelicals, like that message?
For the record
For the record, a Trump insider says the billionaire changed his mind about abortion once his youngest son Barron was born ten years ago. He sometimes tells the story as being about an anonymous third person, because it was an intensely private journey for him to make.
As for enemies foreign and domestic, Trump is the only candidate to point out that terrorism is an issue. He has said in a number of his rallies that he has Muslim friends and business associates in the US and in the Middle East. His proposals for immigration or travel among this religious group have always included either the words ‘temporary’ or ‘until we figure out what’s going on’. Note that, only a few days after he first said this in December 2015, the San Bernardino attack took place. He spoke of Brussels’s dire situation in January. Two attacks on that city took place in March. Meanwhile, the Belgian and French security forces already knew there was a hotbed of extremism in parts of Brussels. That became clear when Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015.
Also note that the no-fly list has been in place since Bush II’s administration. A Muslim family from the UK were banned from flying to the US just before Christmas — under the Obama administration — because Homeland Security suspected a family member of having links to extremists.
With regard to immigration, Trump is careful in his speeches to specify that he supports legal immigration. Can he help it if people like Moore and the media take it out of context? And, yes, there is a rape epidemic affecting Mexican women crossing the border into the US. Even PBS has pointed that out. Why can’t Trump?
Personally, I do not care for whom you vote. That is your business.
However, let’s not be taken in by people saying voting for this or that candidate is immoral and is subject to church discipline. That is absurd and wrong. Voting is an intensely private matter. Let’s nip this in the bud — now!
Singling out one candidate when the others are all equally sinners in one way or another is, in and of itself, morally objectionable.
You can read what clergy have to say at Time.
Archibald G Brown (1844-1922) was a famous English pastor who devoted his ministry and life to the poor in London’s East End.
(Photo credit: ELT Baptist Church)
Brown was the son of a wealthy investment banker and was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, his future wife Anne Bigg invited him to a service at Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. The Metropolitan Tabernacle still exists today.
Although the Metropolitan Tabernacle was a Calvinistic Baptist congregation, the night Brown attended an Anglican lay preacher Stevenson Arthur Blackwood led the service. He asked an unbelieving, somewhat wayward Brown if he was a Christian. When Brown replied in the negative, Blackwood said, ‘How sad’.
Brown was 16 at the time. Afterwards, he went to reflect on Blackwood’s words and his own sinful state. Not only was he converted that day, privately, to Christianity, he went on to train for the ministry under Spurgeon at his Pastor’s College. Brown stood out for Spurgeon. Not only was he the youngest seminarian but the most dedicated to the ministry. Hence the title ‘Spurgeon’s Successor’.
Brown’s first ministry was in Bromley, Kent. However, outside of serving at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, his other pastorates were in London’s East End. He became pastor of the Stepney Green Tabernacle in 1864, which was not well attended. However, by 1867, it was standing room only.
In 1872, he had a new tabernacle built — the East London Tabernacle, which you can see in the photo above. The new church could seat 2,500, although another 500 stood to hear Brown’s powerful preaching. Inside, the tabernacle was massive; you can see more photos of it on the ELT Baptist Church site. Unfortunately, Germans bombed the building in 1944. It took ten years before a new replacement church opened, seating one-fifth of the number of people. The church has since left Baptist alliances and is now affiliated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches and through it to Affinity (formerly the British Evangelical Council).
Sadly, Brown was widowed four times. However, two of his wives left him several children. Annie bore six and Brown’s third wife Edith bore him four.
In later years, Edith’s poor health required him to consider relinquishing the pastorate at the East London Tabernacle and leave the capital altogether. Before he could do so, Edith died. Mourning her loss, he felt he could not continue leading his congregation without her and embarked on an international preaching tour combining travel. He returned to London in 1897 and married his fourth wife Hannah.
His subsequent ministries included a pastorate at a Baptist church in south London and a co-pastorate with Spurgeon’s son at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1907. In 1908, Brown became the sole pastor, a role he continued until 1910, when his own health began to fail. He toured and ministered in South Africa and Tasmania. In March 1922, Hannah died. Brown died nine days later on April 2, 1922.
During his lifetime, Brown and his assistant pastors had an intimate knowledge of the East End and its residents. Many were poor, burning their own banisters to stay warm. Others were prostitutes and thieves. Brown opened an orphanage for girls, started a soup kitchen and founded a summer holiday home in Herne Bay, Kent, to provide relief for the people of the East End.
Brown took a dim view of the modern views and erroneous theology creeping into the Church. He agreed with Spurgeon on the errors of fellow Baptist clergy denying that the Bible was divinely inspired. He deeply disapproved of the new social gospel, calling it an invention ‘by the devil’. He also opposed musical instruments in worship and using secular activities as a means of evangelisation. Not surprisingly, many people who thought they knew better ridiculed and criticised him.
In February 1878, after returning from his travels and newly married to Hannah, Archibald G Brown preached a sermon on hell to young men. The sermon is called ‘The Spiritual Doctrine of Hell’. He gave the address at the East London Tabernacle.
On his trip to Naples in 1877, Brown was struck by the looming Mount Vesuvius on the horizon and went to visit a recently rediscovered Pompeii, much of which was still buried. In August 79 AD, the town experienced a series of earthquakes over several days before Vesuvius erupted.
Wikipedia has a geological account of what happened. However, if anything approached hell on earth, the two days following the earthquakes had to be it. This summarises what happened in Herculaneum and Pompeii (emphases mine):
On the first day of the eruption a fall of white pumice containing clastic fragments of up to 3 centimetres (1.2 in) fell for several hours. It heated the roof tiles to 120–140 °C (248–284 °F). This period would have been the last opportunity to escape. Subsequently a second column deposited a grey pumice with clastics up to 10 cm (3.9 in), temperature unsampled, but presumed to be higher, for 18 hours. These two falls were the Plinian phase. The collapse of the edges of these clouds generated the first dilute PDCs, which must have been devastating to Herculaneum, but did not enter Pompeii.
Early in the morning of the second day the grey cloud began to collapse to a greater degree. Two major surges struck and destroyed Pompeii. Herculaneum and all its population no longer existed. The emplacement temperature range of the first surge was 180–220 °C (356–428 °F), minimum temperatures; of the second, 220–260 °C (428–500 °F). The depositional temperature of the first was 140–300 °C (284–572 °F). Upstream and downstream of the flow it was 300–360 °C (572–680 °F).
The variable temperature of the first surge was due to interaction with the buildings. Any population remaining in structural refuges could not have escaped, as the city was surrounded by gases of incinerating temperatures. The lowest temperatures were in rooms under collapsed roofs. These were as low as 100 °C (212 °F), the boiling point of water. The authors suggest that elements of the bottom of the flow were decoupled from the main flow by topographic irregularities and were made cooler by the introduction of ambient turbulent air. In the second surge the irregularities were gone and the city was as hot as the surrounding environment.
During the last surge, which was very dilute, one meter more of deposits fell over the region.
Now onto Brown’s sermon on hell, which I highly recommend reading in full. Excerpts and summaries follow. Photos are courtesy of Wikipedia.
Brown began by denouncing modern theology, a warning to his audience that they should turn away from error:
Any casual reader of so-called Christian literature must know the distinctive feature of this nineteenth century. There has arisen in the midst of the church an anti-Christ which is known by the name of ‘modern thought’, at whose altars tens of thousands are bowing the knee, and offering their devotion. There is a horrid malaria abroad — a malaria breeding doubt and skepticism, and giving birth to wholesale practical infidelity. Surely the gospel of the present day might be rendered — ‘He who doubts shall be saved, and he who believes shall be counted a fool.’
The eternal covenant of God is torn up with a glib remark and a smile of contempt by some boy-censor. The threatenings of God are having all the thunder taken out of them; and now let any one venture to say that he believes in such doctrines as the sovereign grace of God, an atoning sacrifice, and a doom of unspeakable horror awaiting the man who dies unconverted — and if he is not derided, he will at least be looked upon with contemptuous pity.
Now, the fiercest onslaught has been made upon the doctrine of God’s severity against sin, and the reason why I have selected this topic this evening is that, somehow or another the evil is finding its way into all the homes of our church members …
There is also an immense amount of jargon about the ‘universal fatherhood’ of God. We are told that God is so good, so kind, so indulgent, that he cannot possibly visit a sinner’s sin with the dire doom that Scripture language declares.
He went on to discuss the letters (epistles) of Peter which mention the flood (Noah) and fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
I. Now let us to our first point, namely, that our text shows that GOD’S SEVERITY ON SIN IS A SOLEMN FACT.
He mentions the verse where Peter reminds his converts that God expelled the bad angels from heaven and sent them to hell. There is no reason why He would not do the same to us:
Young men, can you not see that every argument which can be employed against the ultimate punishment of men, applies with equal force against the punishment of the sinful angels? Am I told, as we are repeatedly, that there is such a nobility about man, such a natural grandeur, that it is almost impossible to imagine that God can ever consign so glorious and intellectual a being to perdition!
Regarding the flood, from which Noah and his family were spared:
Come, Mr Modern Thinker — you who are so shocked at the idea of God ever pouring out his wrath on any — how do you account for this? Does this look like ‘universal fatherhood’? Does this look like an indulgent father who knows nothing of righteous indignation against sin? It has been computed that the population of the world at that time was as great as now, owing to the longevity of the race, and yet the waters rose until the few — the eight — who rode in that ark were the sole remnant of a world that God had made.
Come, open your ears and hear the shrieks of the drowning; hear the cries of the strong swimmer in his last agony, and account for it, if you can, on any other ground than that God is a hater of sin — that when the accursed thing reaches a climax, he pours his wrath upon it — ay, though doing so destroys a world he fashioned.
He also spoke about God’s slaying of the first-born in Egypt:
I suppose that in Egypt there were more people than there are in London tonight, and yet in every house the first born was found dead, and from end to end of Egypt’s land a great wail of grief went up. Does that look like ‘universal fatherhood’?
He also discussed the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites, followed by the swallowing up of Pharaoh and his armies:
their salvation meant the destruction of all the chivalry of Egypt.
He mentioned that some modern thinkers would downplay these examples as all coming from the Old Testament, therefore, ancient history. Furthermore, any vivid portrayals of hell come from mediaeval monks, long dead.
‘Medieval’ is it, to speak about weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? These words came not from the lips of any mortal man. They fell from the same lips that said, ‘Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any of the apostles, ever uttered such words as leaped from the lips of the Man of Sorrows. Christ’s descriptions of Hell are the most fearful that we have! It is the lips of infinite love that speak of being cut asunder, and about burning with the fire that is never quenched!
II. Now, then, let us look at the next point. THIS PARTICULAR ACT OF SEVERITY MENTIONED IN OUR TEXT, IS TO BE AN EXAMPLE FOR ALL AGES.
it seemed almost impossible to believe that Vesuvius could do any harm. I was almost inclined to think of Vesuvius as modern thinkers dream of God — that surely all the old fire has burned out. Still, there was some smoke rising which showed me that, though at that time no burning lava was pouring out upon its iron-bound flanks, yet it could do it again.
He toured Herculaneum and Pompeii, which reminded him of what divine punishment and hell must be like:
You must remember that it was not covered with burning lava, as is popularly supposed — that would have destroyed the city. There flowed a torrent of boiling mud which cooled and caked, and then over that there went the burning lava; and this again became like iron, so that there was the city sealed up airtightly, and, for 1,700 years, the world forgot that there was such a place as Pompeii. But we not only saw streets covered with the marks of chariot wheels, and houses with their frescoes. There were other sights sadder far. There were the relics of the past. There I saw the marble table, still standing in the garden as it was left that afternoon; and there was a bottle with the oil still in it; and there was the half eaten loaf of bread.
Yes — but what is that lying there? It is the body of a woman with her face in her hand, seeking to avoid the cinders that were falling. And you can stand there and look upon her, still lying as she cast herself down centuries back. I walked in and out those empty houses in this city of the dead, and I thought of the text, ‘turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, he condemned them with an overthrow’. Sudden was the destruction …
The miser was caught as he was counting his hoard; the harlot was arrested in her house of shame; the prisoner was suffocated in his cell, and the sentry as he stood at the gateway.
A darkness that might be felt swathed the city. The earth rumbled; then the sea became tortured; and giant waves rolled up upon the trembling shore; and over all there were the lurid flashes from the crater of Vesuvius, while masses of blazing rock went hissing through the air, and the shrieks of the terrified people rose until death triumphed and stilled the clamor!
At that point he sensed Vesuvius speaking to him:
And the mountain muttered these words — ‘I can do it again! I can do it again!’
In his tour of Pompeii, he saw the wrath of God coming again on Judgement Day:
My brethren and sisters, go back and see what God has done. When God smites Judah it is that Israel should take warning, and he who hurled the angels from Heaven to Hell, and drowned the world, and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, has power still to smite. Oh, do not rouse my God to anger. Will you count his longsuffering to be slackness? and because he still lengthens out the time of grace will you presume on it? ‘Escape for your life.’
I have finished, and, as an old preacher once said, ‘Now may God begin.’ I feel that, though we have tried to preach to you earnestly, our language has been but cold and faint. Young men, I do not suppose I shall ever see you all again. It is impossible. But as surely as you are sitting in those pews there is a day coming in which you will find every word we have uttered to be true. There is a day coming in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth shall melt with fervent heat, and the trumpet of the archangel shall wax louder and louder! And if you die rejecting Christ you will find yourself, in spite of all that modern thinkers say, doomed to eternal perdition. Fly, then, to Christ, I beseech you. Trust him and he will save you this evening. Rest on his atoning sacrifice, and all sin shall be forgiven you. Go now, and presume no more on God’s patience. Flee from the wrath to come! May God add his blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
I can add little more other than to second this sermon wholeheartedly.
Modern clergy from Brown’s time to the present are hoodwinking us into thinking God will welcome everyone into the heavenly kingdom.
Believe Jesus’s words rather than theirs. There is a second death in hell and it will last forever.
Tomorrow’s post gives a graphic representation of hell by 17th century preacher Thomas Boston.
The concept of Christian Hedonism is new to me.
There is a danger that Christian Hedonism, which revolves around doing good deeds, could nod towards a works-based semi-Pelagianism, if misunderstood or misapplied. This is why I am unsure of it.
However, for Christians well on the road to sanctification — those who are like Samuel Rutherford or those who are resilient and have a better relationship with our Lord — this type of hedonism focusses on the delight experienced in serving God.
The Desiring God article on Christian Hedonism says, in part (emphasis mine):
As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied, but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues; and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory.
We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people
º that “abuse suffered for the Christ [is] greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26);
º that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35);
º that they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Philippians 3:8);
º that the aim of all of Jesus’ commandments is that their joy might be full (John 15:11);
º that if they delight themselves in the Lord he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4);
º that there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6);
º and that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:11).
It seems unlikely that most people could become Christian Hedonists without moving into semi-Pelagian ‘works’.
I, for one, am not yet at that stage, but one day in the future, who knows?