Wisdom for Proud Theologians

Spurgeon's Rebuke is a needed tonic in our day.

Beloved Brother or Sister, you know very well that I would be the last person in the world to speak lightly of the value of sound doctrine. I wish we were all far more acquainted with the Scriptures than we are and that the Doctrines of Grace were more clear to our understandings and more imprinted upon our hearts. But there are some people who love a certain set of doctrines so much, that if you differ a hair’s breadth, they will denounce you as rotten to the core!

They will not associate with any who do say, “Shibboleth,” and sound the “sh” very harshly, too! They will cut off and condemn all God’s people who do not precisely agree with them. Now, mark you, it is not written, “Unto you that believe a code of doctrines will be precious.” That is true, but it is not written so in the text. The text is, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.” It is better to count Christ precious than it is to count orthodoxy precious! It is not loving a creed, but it is loving Jesus that proves you a Christian! You may become such a bigot that it may be only the laws of the land which keep you from burning those who differ from you, and yet you may have none of the Grace of God in your heart! I love Protestantism, but if there is anything in this world that I have a horror of, it is that political Protestantism which does nothing but sneer and snarl at its fellow citizens—but which is as ignorant as a cow about what Protestantism truly is. The great truths of Protestantism—not merely Protestant ascendancy—and the great secret power of those truths, far more than the mere letter of them, is the thing to be prized.

You may get it into your head that you are a member of the one only true church. You may wrap yourself about with any quantity of self-conceit, but that does not at all prove you to be a possessor of Grace. It is love to Christ that is the root of the matter. I am very sorry, my dear Brother, if you should hold unsound views on some points, but I love you with all my heart if Jesus is precious to you! I cannot give up Believers’ Baptism. It is no invention of mine and, therefore, I cannot give up my Master’s ordinance. I am sure that it is Scriptural. I cannot give up the Doctrine of Election—it seems to me so plainly taught in the Word. But over the head of all doctrines and ordinances, and over everything, my Brother and Sister, I embrace you in my heart if you believe in Jesus and if He is precious to you, for that is the vital point! These are the matters of heart-work that mark a Christian— nothing else is so true a test. If you cannot say, “Jesus is precious to me,” I do not care to what church you belong, or what creed you are ready to die for, you do not know the Truth of God unless the Person of Christ is dear to you!

This may serve as a test for each one here. My Brother, my Sister, do you believe in Him who is the Son of God and yet was born of the Virgin here on earth? Do you rely alone on Him who, on the Cross, poured out His heart’s blood to redeem sinners? Do you depend on Him who now stands with His priestly garments on before the Throne of the Infinite Majesty, pleading for the unjust that they may live through Him? If you do, then answer this question—Do you love Jesus now? Do you love Him with your heart and soul? Would you serve Him? Do you serve Him? Will you serve Him? Will you subscribe your hand to be His servant from this day forth? Do you declare now, if not with lips, yet honestly with your soul, “He is precious to me, and I would give up all else sooner than give up Him”? Then it is well with you! Be happy and rejoice! Come to His Table and feast with Him at the banquet of love!

Source: A Sermon From a Sick Preacher (No 3014) Published on Thursday, Nov. 15, 1906
Delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1869

Through a Glass Darkly

From Edward Reynolds' "Meditations on the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Last Supper"

So humble is his mercy that since we cannot raise our understandings to the comprehension of divine mysteries, he will bring down, and submit those mysteries to the apprehension of our senses. Hereafter our bodies shall be over-clothed with a spiritual glory by a real union unto Christ in his kingdom; mean time that spiritual glory which we groan after, is here over-clothed with weak and visible elements, by a Sacramental union at his Table.

Then shall sense be exalted and made a fit subject of glory, here (in the Sacrament) is glory humbled, and made a fit object of sense. Then shall we see as we are seen, face to face; here we see but as in glass darkly; in the glass of the creature, in the glass of the Word, in the glass of the Sacraments. Surely these are in themselves clear and bright glasses, yet we see even in them but darkly, in regard of that vapor and steam which exhales from our corrupt nature, when we use them: and even on these do our souls look through other dark glasses, the windows of sense. At best they are but glasses, whose properties are to present nothing but the pattern, the shadow, the type of those things which are in their substance quite behind us, and therefore out of sight.

So then in general, the nature of a Sacrament is to be the representative of a substance, the sign of a covenant, the seal of a purchase, the figure of a body, the witness of our faith, the earnest of our hope, the presence of things distant, the sight of things absent, the taste of things inconceivable, and the knowledge of things, that are past knowledge.

The Danger of Neglecting the Lord’s Table

Eucharist - Communion
In his book on the Lord’s Supper, Puritan Thomas Watson warns of neglecting the sacrament:

Has Jesus Christ been at all this cost to make a feast? Then, surely, there must be guests. (Luke 22:19). It is not left to our choice whether we will come or not; it is a duty purely indispensable. “Let him eat of that bread” (1 Corinthians 11:28), which words are not only permissive, but authoritative. It is as if a king should say, “Let it be enacted.”

The neglect of the Sacrament runs men into a gospel penalty. It was infinite goodness in Christ to broach that blessed vessel of His body and let His sacred blood stream out. It is evil for us wilfully to omit such an ordinance wherein the trophy of mercy is so richly displayed and our salvation so nearly concerned. Well may Christ take this as an undervaluing of Him, and interpret it as no better than a bidding Him to keep His feast to Himself. He who did not observe the passover was to be cut off. (Numbers 9:13). How angry was Christ with those who stayed away from the supper! They thought to put it off with a compliment. But Christ knew how to construe their excuse for a refusal. “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of My supper,” (Luke 14:24). Rejecting gospel mercy is a sin of so deep a dye that God can do no less than punish it for a contempt. Some need a flaming sword to keep them from the Lord’s Table, and others need Christ’s whip of small cords to drive them to it.

“The most significant thing that the disciple community could do to begin to recover a robust and maturing doctrine of creation is to recover the practice of worship that praises the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and participates in the dialectic of the kingdom. To bring these two together— worship and the doctrine of creation— would be a quest with little expectation of success, except that it is always by grace that God judges and renews God’s people. When we have ‘services of celebration’ and Sunday morning gatherings that are largely evangelistically focused, to recover the practice of worship requires a change of mind (repentance) in many parts of the church.

Often our ‘worship’ has no clear Trinitarian grammar and thus fails to bring us into the presence of the one God— Father, Son, and Spirit. Likewise, our worship receives little guidance from theological convictions and thus is shaped not by the praise of God but by congregational politics and preferences. Along with these failings, we often think of ‘worship’ as a means of getting us through the next week in this fallen world rather than as participation in the redemption of creation and anticipation of the telos of the new creation. Too often we simply accept the way things are and look to ‘worship’ to help us manage with the way things are.

Worship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit should bring us into that most real world of God’s redemption of creation so that our lives are continually transformed. This aspiration may be realized only by the gracious work of God. To know God and to be known by God in transformative ways are what gathers us to be the disciple community from first to last.”

Wilson, Jonathan R.. God’s Good World : Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation. Grand Rapids, US: Baker Academic, 2014.

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him… There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed”

– C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity p. 131

“I say to myself—’Preacher, preach your Master more; preach Him more after His own sort, and endeavor to be more like Him.’ Live nearer to the cross. With all your study of doctrine—and you do well to study it thoroughly—make Jesus Christ the first. Believe in Him. Let Him be your creed”

~ C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter (Bellingham, Washington,: Lexham Press)