A Great Christmas Present…

While I liked almost all my Christmas presents, especially an additional 9 books by CS Lewis that I didn’t previously own, my wife got me the best present of all…(though she cheated on our Christmas budget to do so!)

Now as I read and prepare to teach and generally do things, I will have Mr. Spurgeon ready to bob his approval to me with the tough of a finger.  Now to find the bobbing headed-likenesses of A.W. Tozer and David Brainerd…

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Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 16

Chapter 16 is titled “The Need of Decision for the Truth.”  (As always, my thoughts, though increasingly rare, will be in italics.)

Spurgeon spends a portion of the chapter covering what for him constitute the “Fundamentals” or essentials of Christian truth.  I have provided them in list format:

1. God (monotheism).

2. Inspiration of Scripture

3. Trinity

4. Atonement (very high on the list, yet always one of the first things jettisoned by “progressive thinking”)

5. Holy Spirit

6. Regeneration

7. Sin and Judgment

8. “by Grace…”

9.  “…through Faith…”

On defending the truth kindly…

“Don’t go about the world with your fist doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg of your trousers.  There is no sense in being a sort of doctrinal game-cock, to be carried about to show your spirit, or a terrier of orthodoxy, ready to tackle heterodox rats by the score.”

“There are theologians of such warm, generous blood, that they are never at peace till they are fully engaged in war.”

On confidence in the truth…

“Luther was the man for decision.  Nobody doubted that he believed what he spoke.  He spoke with thunder, for there was lightning in his faith.  The man preached all over, for his entire nature believed.’

On backing up speech with deeds…

“A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech; when men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as pounds and his words as pence.”

On not loving money in ministry…

“How strange it would be to hear a man say, “I am a servant of the Most High God, and I will go wherever I can get the most salary.  I am called to labour for the glory of Jesus only, and I will go nowhere unless the church is of most respectable standing.  For me to live is Christ, but I cannot do it under fiver hundred pounds per annum.”

On election…

“I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never had chosen him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.”

On suffering as preparation for ministry…

“If you have ever been dragged through the mire and clay of soul-despair, if you have been turned upside down, and wiped out like a dish as to all your own strength and pride, and have then been filled with the joy and peace of God, through Jesus Christ, I will trust you among fifty thousand infidels.”

On “modern” skepticism…

The doubters now are usually doubters because they do not care about truth at all . They are indifferent altogether.  Modern skepticism is playing and toying with truth; and it takes to “modern thought” as an amusement, as ladies take to croquet or archery.”

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 15

This chapter is entitled “The Necessity of Ministerial Progress.”  It is a passionate plea against stagnation in any part of the pastor’s life.

“Dear Fellow Soldiers!  We are few, and we have a desperate fight before us, therefore it is needful that every man should be made the most of, and nerved to his highest point of strength.”

On moving forward in our Bible study- “Still, our main business is to study the Scriptures.  The smith’s main business is to shoe horses; let him see that he knows how to do it, for should he be able to belt an angel with a girdle of gold he will fail as a smith if he cannot make and fix a horseshoe.”

“Nowadays we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry “Eureka! Eureka!” as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond, but a piece of broken glass.  Had they been able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, had they understood the analogy of the faith, and had they been acquainted with the holy learning of the great Bible students of ages past, they would not have been quite so fast in vaunting their marvellous [sic] knowledge.”

“Follow the trails of knowledge, according as you have the time, the opportunity, and the peculiar faculty; and do not hesitate to do so because of any apprehension that you will educate yourselves up to too high a point.  When grace abounds, learning will not puff you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel.”

On the vanity of chasing new philosophy…

“The fair maid of truth does not paint her cheeks and tire her head like Jezebel, following every new philosophic fashion; she is content with her own native beauty, and her aspect is in the main the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”

“Hell gapes wide, and with her open mouth swallows up myriads, and those who should spread the tidings of salvation are ‘pursuing fresh lines of thought.’  Highly cultured soul-murderers will find their boasted ‘culture’ to be no excuse in the day of judgment.”

“”You know ministers who have mistaken their calling, and evidently have no gifts for it: make sure that none think the same of you.”

“I heard one say the other day that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster, and in my own judgment, this was a slander on the oyster, for that worthy bivalve shows great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close.  If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons it would be a righteous judgment upon them, and they would soon cry out with Cain, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”

“An average hearer, who is unable to follow the course of thought of the preacher, ought not to worry himself, but to blame the preacher, whose business it is to make the matter plain.”

“It is not enough to be so plain that you can be understood, you must speak so that you cannot be misunderstood.”

On style-

“Nonsense does not improve by being bellowed.”

“To be burning at the lip and freezing at the soul is a mark of reprobation.”

“We are not to go about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing for rats; nor are we to be so confident of our own infallibility as to erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to roast all who differ from us…”

“Count nothing little which even in a small degree hinders your usefulness.”

On a policy of pleasing everyone…

“Under God I owe my position in my own church to the absence of all policy, and the habit of saying what I mean.  The plan of making all things pleasant all round is a perilous as well as a wicked one.  If you say one thing to one man, and another to another, they will one day compare notes and find you out, and then you will be despised.”

“Excel also in power, which is both mental and moral, namely, the power of concentrating all your forces upon the work to which you are called…Turn all the springs of your soul into one channel, causing it to flow onward in an undivided stream.’

“Do not be afraid of becoming too holy.  Do not be afraid of being too full of the Holy Spirit.  I would have you wise on all sides, and able to deal with man both in his conflicts and in his joys, as one familiar with both.  Know where Adam left you; know where the Spirit of God has placed you.  Do not know either of these so exclusively as to forget the other.”

“Dwell in God, brethren; do not occasionally visit Him, but abide in Him.  They say in Italy that where the sun does not enter the physician must.  Where Jesus does not shine the soul is sick.”

“There are good brethren in the world who are also impractical.  The grand doctrine of the second advent makes them stand with open mouths, peering into the skies, so that I am ready to say, “Ye men of Plymouth, why stand ye here gazing up into heaven?”  [no doubt a reference to John Darby’s Plymouth Brethren, founders of dispensationalism] The fact that Jesus Christ is to come is not a reason for star-gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost.  Be not so taken up with speculations as to prefer a Bible reading over a dark passage in the Revelation to teaching in a ragged-school or discoursing to the poor concerning Jesus.  We must have done with day-dreams, and get to work.”

Regarding missions-

“We ought to put it on this footing- not “Can I prove that I ought to go?” but “Can I prove that I ought not to go?”  When a man can prove honestly that he ought not to go then he is clear, but not else.”

“It is not enoug for us to say, ‘Those Moravians are very wonderful people!’  We ought to be wonderful people too.  Christ did not purchase the Moravians any more than He purchased us; they are under no more obligation to make sacrifices than we are.  Why then this backwardness?  When we read of heroic men who gave up all for Jesus, we are not merely to admire, but to imitate them.

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 14

This chapter is entitled “The Holy Spirit in Connection with Our Ministry.”  From what I have seen, Spurgeon was not lacking in theology regarding the Holy Spirit.

To us the presence and work of the Holy Spirit are the ground of our confidence as to the wisdom and hopefulness of our life work.  If we had not believed in the Holy Ghost we should have laid down our ministry long ere this, for ‘who is sufficient for these things?’  Our hope of success, and our strength for continuing the service, lie in our belief that the Spirit of the Lord resteth upon us.”

“We believe ourselves to be spokesmen for Jesus Christ, appointed to continue His witness upon earth; but upon Him and His testimony the Spirit of God always rested, and if it does not rest upon us, we are evidently not sent forth into the world as He was.”

“If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave.”

“Rightly to divide the Word of God is as important as fully to understand it, for some who have evidently understood a part of the gospel have given undue prominence to that one portion of it, and have therefore exhibited a distorted Christianity, to the injury of those who have received it, since they in their turn have exhibited a distorted character in consequence thereof.”

“We may be conscious of having passed by certain texts, not because we do not understand them (which may be justifiable), but because we do understand them, and hardly like to say what they have taught us, or because there may be some imperfection in ourselves, or some prejudice among our hearers which those texts would reveal too clearly for our comfort.  Such sinful silence must be ended forthwith.”

“I believe that many brethren who preach human responsibility deliver themselves in so legal a manner as to disgust all those who love the doctrines of grace.  On the other hand, I fear that many have preached the sovereignty of God in such a way as to drive all persons who believe in man’s free agency entirely away from the Calvinistic side.”

“We need the divine influence to keep us back from saying many things which, if they actually left our tongue, would mar our message.  Those of us who are endowed with the dangerous gift of humour have need, sometimes, to stop and take the word out of our mouth and look at it, and see whether it is quite to edification.”

“Especially is it the Holy Spirit’s work to maintain in us a devotional frame of mind whilst we are discoursing.  This is a condition to be greatly coveted–to continue praying while you are occupied with preaching; to do the Lord’s commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word; to keep the eye on the throne, and the wing in perpetual motion.”

“We do not stand up in our pulpits to display our skill in spiritual sword play, but we come to actual fighting:  our object is to drive the sword of the Spirit through men’s hearts.”

“Never aim at effect after the manner of the climax makers, poetry quoters, handkerchief manipulators, and bombast blowers.  Far better for a man that he had never been born than that he should degrade a pulpit into a show box to exhibit himself in.  Aim at the right sort of effect; the inspiring of saints to nobler things, the leading of Christians closer to their Master, the comforting of doubters till they rise out of their terrors, the repentance of sinners, and their exercise of immediate faith in Christ.  Without these signs following, what is the use of our sermons?”

“The habit of prayer is good, but the spirit of prayer is better.  Regular retirement is to be maintained, but continued communion with God is to be our aim.”

Regarding congregationalism- “Brethren, our system will not work without the Spirit of God, and I am glad that it will not, for its stoppages and breakages call our attention to the fact of His absence.  Our system was never intended to promote the glory of priests and pastors, but it is calculated to educate manly Christians, who will not take their faith at second-hand.”

“The Spirit claims a sovereignty like that of the wind which bloweth where it listeth; but let us never dream that sovereignty and capriciousness are the same thing.  The blessed Spirit acts as He wills, but He always acts justly, wisely, and with motive and reason.”

“Christ’s Spirit will not be an accomplice with men in the wretched business of shuffling and deceiving.  Does it really come to this?–that you preach certain doctrines, not because you believe them, but because your congregation expects you to do so?”

“I would not shun my Master’s service, but I tremble in His presence.  Who can be faultless when even Moses erred?  It is a dreadful thing to be beloved of God.”

“When you are fullest of the fruits of the Spirit, bow lowest before the throne, and serve the Lord with fear…Remember that God has come unto us, not to exalt us, but to exalt Himself, and we must see to it that His glory is the one sole object of all that we do.

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 12-13

Today, I have some quotes from chapters 12 and 13- “The Minister’s Ordinary Conversation” and “To Workers with Slender Apparatus” respectively.  As always, my personal comments will be in italics.

Chapter 12- The Minister’s Ordinary Conversation

“Let not the ambassador of heaven be other than a son of man.  In fact, let him remember that the more simple and unaffected (genuine, without pretense) he is, the more closely he will resemble that child-man, the holy child Jesus.”

Regarding reaching the average man-“I am persuaded that one reason why our working-men so universally keep clear of ministers is because they abhor their artificial and unmanly ways.  If they saw us, in the pulpit and out of it, acting like real men, and speaking naturally, like honest men, they would come around us.”

“Still, a minister, wherever he is, is a minister, and should recollect that he is on duty.”

“Some ministers need to be told that they are of the same species as their hearers.”

On friendly demeanor- “No one knows what a smile and a hearty sentence may do.  A man who is to do much with men must love them, and feel at home with them.  An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living.”

“A man must have a great heart if he would have a great congregation…When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship.”

On arguments-“The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument.  He, above all men, should not make the mistake of fancying that there is force in temper, and power in speaking angrily.”

“But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words.”

Chapter 13- To Workers with Slender Apparatus

This chapter is for those who cannot afford a large library for various reasons, and it is a gold mine for quotes!

“If a man can purchase but very few books, my first advice to him would be, let him purchase the very best.”

“Forgo, then, without regret, the many books which, like poor Hodge’s razors, of famous memory, “are made to sell,” and do sell those who buy them, as well as themselves.”  Imagine his chagrin if he were to peruse a Christian bookstore today.

Regarding Matthew Henry’s Commentary- “Get it, if you sell your coat to buy it.”

“Master those books you have.  Read them thoroughly…Peruse a good book several times, and make notes and analysis of it.  A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them, as the classic proverb puts it “As the dogs drink of Nilus.”  Little learning and much pride come of hasty reading.”

“Books on the brain cause disease.  Get the book into the brain, and you will grow.”

“…a very well-deserved rebuke to those who think that possession of books will secure them learning.  A measure of that temptation happens to us all; for do we not feel wiser after we have spent an hour r two in a bookseller’s shop?  A man might as well think himself richer for having inspected the vaults of the bank of England.  In reading, let your motto be, “Much, not many.”  Think as well as read, and keep the thinking always proportionate to the reading, and your small library will not be a great misfortune.”

Great quote for book-lovers: “There is very much sound sense in the remark of a writer in the Quarterly Review many years back.  “Give us the one dear book, cheaply picked from the stall by the price of the dinner, thumbed and dog-eared, cracked in the back and broken in the corner, noted on the fly-leaf and scrawled on the margin, sullied and scorched, torn and worn, smoothed in the pocket and grimed on the hearth, damped by the grass and dusted among the cinders, over which you have dreamed in the grove and dozed before the embers, but read again, and again, and again, cover to cover.  It is by this one book, and its three of four single successors, that more real cultivation has been imparted than by all the myriads which bear down the mile-long, bulging, bending shelves of the Bodleian.”

“I would earnestly impress upon you the truth, that a man who is short of apparatus can make up for it by much thought.”

“Nowadays we are pestered with a set of fellows who must needs stand on their heads and think with their feet.  Romancing is their notion of meditation.  Instead of considering revealed truth, they excogitate a mess of their own, in which error, and nonsense, and conceit appear in about equal parts; and they call this broth “modern thought.””

“If you have no books to try your eyes, keep them open wherever you go, and you will find something worth looking at.

“A man’s own experience should be to him the laboratory in which he tests the medicines which he prescribes for others.  Even your own faults and failures will instruct you if you bring them to the Lord.”

“‘Not a novice,’ says the apostle; and it is possible to be a novice and yet a very accomplished scholar, a classic, a mathematician, and a theoretical theologian.  We should have practical familiarity with men’s souls; and if we have much of it, the fewness of our books will be a light affliction.”

“I have heard of a gentleman of whom it was said that you could never spend five minutes under an archway with him but what he would teach you something.  That was a wise man; but he would be a wiser man still who would never stop five minutes under an archway without learning somewhat from other people.”

Learning from the lost: “As for the inquirer, how much is to be gathered from him!  I have seen very much of my own stupidity while in conversation with seeking souls.”

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 10-11

These chapters are titled “The Faculty of Impromptu Speech” and “The Minister’s Fainting Fits”.

(Remember any commentary by the blogger will be in italics.)

10- The Faculty of Impromptu Speech

On impromptu speech- “We would not recommend any man to attempt preaching in this style as a general rule.”

Regarding preparation- “He [God] will never do for us what we can do for ourselves.”

“Very strongly do I warn all of you against reading your sermons, but I recommend, as a most healthful exercise, and as a great aid towards attaining extemporising power, the frequent writing of them.” A little later, “The pen is the scalpel which dissects the thoughts, and never, except when you write down what you behold internally, can you succeed in clearly discerning all that is contained in a conception, or in obtaining its well-marked scope.  You then understand yourself, and make others understand you.”

Chapter 11- The Minister’s Fainting Fits

This chapter is extremely personal for Spurgeon, whose struggle with depression is well-known.

I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”

“Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them.”

“Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.”  This reminds me of the great quote- “Remember, you are preaching to hurting people.”

“Men, and men subject to human passions, the all-wise God has chosen to be vessels of grace; hence, these tears, hence these perplexities and castings down.”

“We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh.”

Regarding the loneliness of leadership- “The mountain-tops stand solemnly apart, and talk only with God as He visits their terrible solitudes.  Men of God who rise above their fellows into nearer communion with heavenly things, in their weaker moments feels the lack of human sympathy.”

Regarding the use of nature and recreation as an aid for the soul- “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”

Regarding the path to a big ministry that was laid before him at such an early age- “I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me.”

Regarding false brothers and sisters- “Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor, or Demas the apostate…Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly…A kick that scarce would move a horse would kill a sound divine.”

“Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing the honour due to the Great Worker.  The man shall be emptied of self, and then filled with the Holy Ghost.”

“Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.”

“Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him.  Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not His saints.”

Finally,

“Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are.  When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.”

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 8-9

Chapter 8- The Voice

“You are not singers, but preachers: your voice is but a secondary matter…A trumpet need not be made of silver, a ram’s horn will suffice; but it must be able to endure rough usage, for trumpets are for war’s conflicts, not for the drawing-rooms of fashion.”

There were many instances when the printed text failed to convey the hilarity of Spurgeon’s teaching as he does impressions of several notorious bad voices of preachers in his day!

“It is impossible to hear a man who crawls along at a mile an hour.  One word to-day and one to-morrow is a kind of slow-fire which martyrs only could enjoy.”  (This reminds me of one person in my preaching class in seminary who had a ton of good thoughts, but I found myself writing on each evaluation for him “Speed up!”)

“Be a little economical with that enormous volume of sound. Do not give your hearers head-aches when you mean to give them heart-aches.”

Much of his advice was for preachers to simply be themselves and talk naturally!  A few quotes on that.

“Be, indeed, just what every common-sense person is in his speech when he talks naturally, pleads vehementally, whispers confidentially, appeals plaintively, or publishes distinctly.”

“Indeed, all mimicry is in the pulpit near akin to an unpardonable sin.”

“In everything, be natural.”

A great poem here-“

It is an ill case when the preacher…

‘Leaves his hearers perplex’d

Twixt the two to determine:

‘Watch and pray’ says the text,

‘Go to sleep,” says the sermon.”

“Take heart, young brother, persevere, and God, nature, and practice will help you.”

Lecture 9 is on the “Attention!”, specifically the keeping thereof!

“There are preachers who care very little whether they are attended to or not; so long as they can hold on through the allotted time it is of very small importance to them whether their people hear for eternity, or hear in vain: the sooner such ministers sleep in the churchyard and preach by the verse on their gravestones the better.”

“We want all eyes fixed upon us and all ears open to us.  To me it is an annoyance if even a blind man does not look at me with his face.”

“The minister who recommended the old lady to take snuff in order to keep from dozing was very properly rebuked by her reply—that if he would put more snuff into the sermon she would be awake enough.”

“The next best thing to the grace of God for a preacher is oxygen.  Pray that the windows of heaven may be opened, but begin by opening the windows of your meeting-house.” (Or turn up the A/C!)

Regarding speaking to your audience– “Go up to his level if he is a poor man; go down to his understanding if he is an educated person.”  (Spurgeon goes on to comment about the difficulty in speaking to the average person and working hard to make deep truths understandable for all, just like Jesus’ teaching.)

“Do not make the introduction too long.  It is always a pity to build a great porch to a little house.”

“If you ask me how you may shorten your sermons, I should say, study them better.  Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit.  We are generally longest when we have least to say.”

“If you need another direction for winning attention, I should say, be interested yourself, and you will interest others.”

“Remember, however, that nothing will avail if you go to sleep yourself while you are preaching.”