A sermon (No. 168) delivered on December 20, 1857 by C. H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
It is superstitious to worship angels; it is but proper to love them. Although it would be a high sin, and an act of misdemeanor against the Sovereign Court of Heaven to pay the slightest adoration to the mightiest angel, yet it would be unkind and unseemly, if we did not give to holy angels a place in our heart’s warmest love. In fact, he that contemplates the character of angels, and marks their many deeds of sympathy with men, and kindness towards them, cannot resist the impulse of his nature—the impulse of love towards them. The one incident in angelic history, to which our text refers, is enough to weld our hearts to them for ever. How free from envy the angels were! Christ did not come from heaven to save their compeers when they fell. When Satan, the mighty angel, dragged with him a third part of the stars of heaven, Christ did not stoop from his throne to die for them; but he left them to be reserved in chains and darkness until the last great day. Yet angels did not envy men. Though they remembered that he took not up angels, yet they did not murmur when he took up the seed of Abraham; and though the blessed Master had never condescended to take the angel’s form, they did not think it beneath them to express their joy when they found him arrayed in the body of an infant. How free, too, they were from pride! They were not ashamed to come and tell the news to humble shepherds. Methinks they had as much joy in pouring out their songs that night before the shepherds, who were watching with their flocks, as they would have had if they had been commanded by their Master to sing their hymn in the halls of Caesar. Mere men—men possessed with pride, think it a fine thing to preach before kings and princes; and think it great condescension now and then to have to minister to the humble crowd. Not so the angels. They stretched their willing wings, and gladly sped from their bright seats above, to tell the shepherds on the plain by night, the marvelous story of an Incarnate God. And mark how well they told the story, and surely you will love them! Not with the stammering tongue of him that tells a tale in which he hath no interest; nor even with the feigned interest of a man that would move the passions of others, when he feeleth no emotion himself; but with joy and gladness, such as angels only can know. They sang the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in heavy prose. They sang, “Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” Methinks they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves. And, verily, it was good news to them, for the heart of sympathy makes good news to others, good news to itself. Do you not love the angels? Ye will not bow before them, and there ye are right; but will ye not love them? Doth it not make one part of your anticipation of heaven, that in heaven you shall dwell with the holy angels, as well as with the spirits of the just made perfect? Oh, how sweet to think that these holy and lovely beings are our guardians every hour! They keep watch and ward about us, both in the burning noon-tide, and in the darkness of the night. They keep us in all our ways; they bear us up in their hands, lest at any time we dash our feet against stones. They unceasingly minister unto us who are the heirs of salvation; both by day and night they are our watchers and our guardians, for know ye not, that “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.”
Unfortunately liars are not yet extinct, and, like Richard Baxter and John Bunyan, you may be accused of crimes which your soul abhors. Be not staggered thereby, for this trial has befallen the very best of men, and even your Lord did not escape the envenomed tongue of falsehood. In almost all cases it is the wisest course to let such things die a natural death. A great lie, if unnoticed, is like a big fish out of water, it dashes and plunges and beats itself to death in a short time. To answer it is to supply it with its element and help it to a longer life.
Falsehoods usually carry their own refutation somewhere about them, and sting themselves to death. Some lies especially have a peculiar smell, which betrays their rottenness to every honest nose. If you are disturbed by them the object of their invention is partly answered, but your silent endurance disappoints malice and gives you a partial victory, which God in his care of you will soon turn into a complete deliverance. Your blameless life will be your best defense, and those who have seen it will not allow you to be condemned so readily as your slanderers expect. Only abstain from fighting your own battles, and in nine cases out of ten your accusers will gain nothing by their malevolence but chagrin for themselves and contempt from others.
This post continues a lecture from C.H. Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students (read the series so far).
Avoid with your whole soul that spirit of suspicion which sours some men’s lives, and
Suspicion makes a man a torment to himself and a spy towards others. Once begin to suspect, and causes for distrust will multiply around you, and your very suspiciousness will create the major part of them. Many a friend has been transformed into an enemy by being suspected. Do not, therefore, look about you with the eyes of mistrust, nor listen as an eaves-dropper with the quick ear of fear. To go about the congregation ferreting out disaffection, like a gamekeeper after rabbits, is a mean employment, and is generally rewarded most sorrowfully.
Some time ago I was given the then-new volume of “missing sermons” of C.H. Spurgeon published by Day One Publishers. C.H. Spurgeon has always been be my “preaching hero,” and I have read far more of his sermons than those of everyone else combined. His autobiography shaped me like nothing else in the early days of my ministry. We who are Calvinists often claim that his success was due to his Puritan Calvinism. In the 1990’s I argued in an unpublished paper that it was Spurgeon’s plain speech, not just his Calvinism, that made him so successful. Here is an excerpt from that paper.
What fails in the theological interpretation of Spurgeon is its inability to explain how many other English preachers who had held as tenaciously to Calvinistic tenets as Spurgeon did were not nearly as successful as he was! Furthermore, it fails to explain the tremendous appeal of preachers like his contemporaries Joseph Parker in London and Russell Conwell in Philadelphia—who were not Calvinists! What Spurgeon brought to the pulpit, along with an effective evangelical Calvinism, was a populism born out of his own personal experience. One of the ways in which this was manifested was his commitment to plain speech.
By C. H. Spurgeon
Sermon 2197 delivered on Lord’s-day morning, March 29th, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4)
I HAVE AFORETIME preached upon the whole verse, so that this morning I shall take the liberty to dwell chiefly upon the latter part of it—“Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The idea that the grace of God should lead us to licentiousness is utterly loathsome to every Christian man. We cannot endure it. The notion that the doctrines of grace give license to sin, comes from the devil, and we scout it with a detestation more deep than words can express. “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
On our first entrance upon a Christian profession, we are met by the ordinance of baptism, which teaches the necessity of purification. Baptism is, in its very form, a washing, and its teaching requires cleansing of the most thorough kind. It is a burial, in which the man is viewed as dead with Christ to sin, and is regarded as rising again as a new man. Baptism sets forth, as in a picture, the union of the believer with the Lord Jesus in his baptism of suffering, and in his death, burial, and resurrection. By submitting to that sacred ordinance, we declare that we believe ourselves to be dead with him, because of his endurance of the death penalty, and dead to the world and to the dominion of sin by his Spirit; at the same time, we also profess our faith in our Lord’s resurrection, and that we ourselves are raised up in union with him, and have come forth through faith into newness of life. It is a very impressive and vivid symbol, but it is without meaning unless we rise to purity of life.