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It is so important for Christians to pray for the unsaved.

The great Baptist preacher and Englishman from the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, posed an interesting question on the subject:

It is also important to pray for missionaries, whether at home or abroad, as they follow Matthew 28:16-20, The Great Commission:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I have known Christians who object to missionaries, calling them busybodies, but those men and women are at the forefront of doing the Lord’s work, often at great risk to themselves and their families.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgContinuing an occasional series on quotes from the Reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, today’s post concerns his insights on Matthew 7:6.

Previous entries on Spurgeon’s sayings include ambition, eternity and unity, growing old as well as reconciliation and strained relationships.

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.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgContinuing an occasional series on quotes from the Reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, today’s post concerns his views on reconciliation and strained relationships.

Previous entries addressed ambition, eternity and unity and growing old.

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.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgContinuing an occasional series on quotes from the Reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, today’s post concerns his views on growing old.

Previous entries addressed ambition, eternity and unity.

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!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgContinuing an occasional series on quotes from the Reformed Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, today’s post concerns his views on ambition.

The two previous entries addressed eternity and unity.

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.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgOne of last week’s posts featured Charles Haddon Spurgeon‘s insights on eternity.

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.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgCharles Haddon Spurgeon was a Victorian preacher and founder of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

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.

Over the past few days I have been researching tobacco use by notable Christian clergy and authors.

An article from 2010 at Christian Century, ‘The nicotine journal’ by Rodney Clapp, provides a good prĂ©cis of famous Christian smokers from the 20th century. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison in Fortress Press’s extra­ordinary new edition of his collected works … remains almost endlessly suggestive and stimulating theologically. But in this reading I noticed how often the imprisoned Luth­eran pastor mentioned tobacco. There are, in fact, no fewer than 20 entries in the index under “Smoking.”

“I am very grateful for any smoking supplies,” Bonhoef­fer mentions in one letter. In another he adds his “special thanks for the smoking supplies and to all the kind donors of cigarettes,” and elsewhere he offers gratitude for “cookies, peaches, and cigarettes.”

Bonhoeffer often re­inforces his gratitude with superlatives and exclamation points. “Maria’s and Mother’s cigarettes were magnificent,” he writes. “I thank Anna very much for the cigarettes.” And: “I thank you very much for everything, also for the cigars and cigarettes from your trip!” He praises a Wolf cigar for its “magical fragrance” and on another occasion declares, “I’ve lit the big cigar and am enjoying it immensely—thanks very much!” When his dear friend Eber­hard Bethge delivers a cigar sent by Karl Barth, Bon­hoeffer finds it so fine that he staggers at its “truly im­probable reality.”

Bonhoeffer’s nicotine en­comia brought to mind other theological figures who smoked. C. S. Lewis incessantly smoked cigarettes and a pipe. J. R. R. Tolkien appeared almost elf­ish in the author photo for The Hobbit, grinning and grip­ping a pipe. Barth, too, liked a pipe but sometimes smoked cigars. Other confirmed smokers in­clude Paul Tillich, Rein­hold Niebuhr, James Gustaf­son and Richard John Neu­haus.

Enthusiastic smokers can also be found in the ranks of conservative evangelicals. The British Baptist C. H. Spur­geon believed cigar drafts prepared his throat for preaching. Chal­lenged on this practice, Spur­geon replied that he would continue unashamedly to “smoke to the glory of God” …

Strenuous objections to tobacco use arise not only in fundamentalist or evangelical circles. When theologian Paul Ramsey appeared on the cover of the Methodist magazine the Christian Advo­cate, it was not his remarks on war but the photo of Ramsey with a pipe in hand that sparked a storm of controversy

Given the health concerns related to smoking, I will attempt no theological apologia for the activity other than observing that the existence of volcanoes—not to mention liturgical incense—suggests a God who apparently has a special interest in fire and smoke.

We cannot be sure about the Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen, although Clapp notes that Machen did write his mother about smoking, saying:

When I think what a wonderful aid tobacco is to friendship and Christian patience I have sometimes regretted that I never began to smoke.

Clapp editorialises, making it clear that he has no time for cigarettes, which he is sure are harmful. (Why? Tobacco is tobacco. Smoke is smoke.) His choices are pipes and cigars. Such a rationale surely excludes the ladies who would look a bit eccentric smoking either, although some do.

Setting cigarettes aside, I think pipe and cigar users enjoy smoking because it provides three substantial plea­sures. First, a high-quality cigar or a well-packed pipe presents occasion for patience (as Machen noticed). It takes at least 45 minutes to finish a decent cigar. That is time set aside for backyard meditation or contemplation. Few things better slow down a busy day and bring it in for a relaxed landing than a burning stogie and an iced bourbon.

Second, smoking in the company of others enhances conviviality. Conversation as­sumes a satisfying pace as the talkers pause periodically to draw on their pipes or cigars.

Third, smoking is an excellent aesthetic pleasure. There are the tools—cigar cutters, lighters and pipe cleaners—whose use is a soothing ritual. And smoke itself moves with visual elegance, in serene white or blue undulations, with a languorous ascent into the sky.

The two comments he received are disappointing but typical of our times. ‘The horror!’

Still, it’s good to know of more clergy and notable Christians who enjoyed and appreciated the rituals and comfort which are unique to tobacco.

More to come.

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