Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spurgeon Thursday - the Highlands of Affliction

Charles Spurgeon preached over 600 times before he was 20 years old. His sermons sold about 20,000 copies a week and were translated into 20 languages. His sermons fill 63 volumes and stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity. Je was a preacher of truth:
To know truth as it should be known, to love it as it should be loved, and then to proclaim it in the right spirit, and in its proper proportions. 
And, most importantly, he believed that the Bible was the truth
This is the book untainted by any error; but it is pure unalloyed, perfect truth. Why? Because God wrote it
He was immensely popular, his sermons were given to thousands and read by tens of thousands. He wasn't exaggerating when he said
"I remember, when I have preached at different times in the country, and sometimes here, that my whole soul has agonized over men, every nerve of my body has been strained and I could have wept my very being out of my eyes and carried my whole frame away in a flood of tears, if I could but win souls"
He was a Puritan, Calvinist, Protestant but he didn't believe that was the only way, because he knew that Jesus was the only way. Spurgeon delighted in confessing that he was sure there were saved saints in the "Romish Church" and he even  chose a paedobaptist to be the first head of his pastor's college. His communion was open to all Christians, but he said he "would rather give up his pastorate than admit any man to the church who was not obedient to his Lord's command [of baptism]"
"I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, "It is Jesus Christ" 
Charles was a man like any other man in the Victorian era, he smoke cigars and drank. He found cigars relaxing and smoked on daily “to the glory of God” and did not consider it, nor drinking wine a sin. But as the ravages of alcoholism were felt across the British Empire Charles rethought his stance on alcohol
“I neither said nor implied that it was sinful to drink wine; nay, I said that, in and by itself, this might be done without blame. But I remarked that, if I knew that another would be led to take it by my example, and this would lead them on to further drinking, and even to intoxication, then I would not touch it.”
So Spurgeon gave up his Christian liberty in order to avoid leading another astray. 

However popular and loved he was, he was also suffering. He married Susannah Thomson on January 8, 1856. She called him Tirshatha, a title used of the Judean governor under the Persian empire meaning "Your Excellency." Soon she was pregnant with twins. On October 19th of that same year at the age of 22 he preached  for the first time in the Music Hall of the Royal Surrey Gardens because his own church would not hold the people. Over 10,000 people were there, the place was packed beyond capacity, and someone shouted "FIRE!" A great panic started and seven people were killed in the stampede with scores more injured. Spurgeon was overcome by the calamity. He claimed to have come away unharmed but his friends knew that he was suffering mental anguish over that evening.

The next day Susannah gave birth to twin boys, but was never able to have more children. By the time she was 33 she had become a virtual invalid and rarely heard her husband preach for the next 27 years until his death. Spurgeon wanted a large family (he had 16 brothers and sisters) but that was impossible.

He suffered from gout, rheumatism and Bright's disease (inflammation of the kidneys) starting at the age of 35. It became progressively, he estimated that one third of the last twenty-two years of his ministry was spent out of the pulpit, either suffering, or convalescing, or trying to avoid a return of the illness. On top of this he had to endure public ridicule and slander
His style is that of the vulgar colloquial, varied by rant ... All the most solemn mysteries of our holy religion are by him rudely, roughly and impiously handled. Common sense is outraged and decency disgusted. His rantings are interspersed with coarse anecdotes 
Mr. Spurgeon was absolutely destitute of intellectual benevolence. If men saw as he did they were orthodox; if they saw things in some other way they were heterodox, pestilent and unfit to lead the minds of students or inquirers. Mr. Spurgeon's was a superlative egotism; not the shilly-shallying, timid, half-disguised egotism that cuts off its own head, but the full-grown, over-powering, sublime egotism that takes the chief seat as if by right. The only colors which Mr. Spurgeon recognized were black and white.
 Charles tried to ignore the attacks, but couldn't always brush them off, as he wrote in 1857
"Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken" 
Spurgeon was no stranger to controversy, one huge controversy that he started was called the Downgrade Controversy when Spurgeon wrote an article in The Sword & Trowel accusing Baptists of downgrading the bible and the principal of Sola Scriptura. He alleged that the incremental creeping of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, the Darwinian theory of evolution, and other concepts were weakening the Baptist Union
Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaptation for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart
The Baptist Union was so outraged that they disaffiliated the Metropolitan Tabernacle from the the Baptist Union turning Spurgeon's congregation into the worlds first non-denominational Mega-Church. Spurgeon framed the controversy this way:
Believers in Christ's atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death... It is our solemn conviction that there should be no pretence of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin
Spurgeon was also a proud abolitionist. His views opposing slave owing angered the Southern Baptists, the sales of his sermons plummeted, and his critics hammered him with scores of threats and insulting letters.
Not so very long ago our nation tolerated slavery in our colonies. Philanthropists endeavored to destroy slavery; but when was it utterly abolished? It was when Wilberforce roused the church of God, and when the church of God addressed herself to the conflict, then she tore the evil thing to pieces. I have been amused with what Wilberforce said the day after they passed the Act of Emancipation. He merrily said to a friend when it was all done, “Is there not something else we can abolish?” That was said playfully, but it shows the spirit of the church of God. She lives in conflict and victory; her mission is to destroy everything that is bad in the land. 
He eventually learned how to deal with the critics. Rather than responding to them by pandering to their criticisms by changing his language to soothe the critics, Spurgeon realized he must say "By the grace of God, I am what I am"
"I have found it utterly impossible to please, let me say or do what I will. One becomes somewhat indifferent when dealing with those whom every word offends. I notice that, when I have measured my words, and weight my sentences most carefully, I have then offended most; while some of my stronger utterances have passed unnoticed. Therefore, I am comparatively careless as to how my expressions may be received, and only anxious that they may be in themselves just and true" 
And if that's not enough, Spurgeon suffered through recurring bouts of depression. He would weep for hours for no reason he knew of. It began in 1858 at the age of 24 and it was a burden he carried to the grave. I've mentioned Spurgeon's depression in the past, but I had no idea how crushing his depression was. He considered his depression his "worst feature" and considered it a vice and was ashamed of himself for falling into despondency. 

Spurgeon saw three specific ways that God used this depression in his life. First was that it acted like the thorn that Paul complained of, keeping him humble:
"'Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.' Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker ... Those who are honoured of their Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil"
The second use was to give power to his ministry:
"One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, 'My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?' and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, 'I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.'
By God's grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God's servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge ... You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds"
 Spurgeon saw the third purpose as a prophetic signal for the future:
"This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord's richer benison [blessing]" 
The Prince of Preachers used his pain, and sorrow and depression to the glory of God, saving tens of thousands of souls. He carried these pains with him to the grave.He preached his final sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on June 7, 1891, and at 11:05 pm on January 31, 1892 at the age of 57, Spurgeon fell into a coma from which he did not awake. 100,000 people viewed his casket in the Tabernacle and was buried in Norwood Cemetery.

Charles Spurgeon was dead on when he said "The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction."

A huge thanks to Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper

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