In 1887 the famed “Prince of Preachers” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, withdrew membership from the Baptist Union, citing intense sadness at the “modernism” which had moved churches away from biblically founded preaching and towards pulpits of compromise and attraction, eerily like the very world they pretended to save. Two weeks following his withdrawal, he preached the following, which one hundred years later, stands as a well timed letter to the American church.
We must never hide our colors. There are times when we must dash to the front and court the encounter, when we see that our Captain’s honor demands it. Let us never be either ashamed or afraid. Our Lord Jesus deserves that we should yield ourselves as willing sacrifices in defense of his faith. Ease, reputation, life itself, must go for the name and faith of Jesus. If in the heat of the battle our good name or our life must be risked to win the victory, then let us say, “In this battle some of us must fall; why should not I? I will take part with my Master, and bear reproach for His sake.” Only brave soldiers are worthy of our great Lord. Those who sneak into the rear, that they may be comfortable, are not worthy of the kingdom.
Brethren, we must be willing to bear ridicule for Christ’s sake, even that peculiarly envenomed ridicule which “the cultured” are so apt to pour upon us. We must be willing to be thought great fools for Jesus’ sake… For my part, I am willing to be ten thousand fools in one for my dear Lord and Master, and count it to be the highest honor that can be put upon me to be stripped of every honor, and loaded with every censure for the sake of the grand old truth which is written on my very heart. Before I could quit my faith, I should have to be ground to powder, and every separate atom transformed.
Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same today? When you go to the Zoo you will admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right. Likewise, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are sort of a bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man today is a nuisance, and must be put down.
Call him a narrow minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.”
Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error! Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men love the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers.
It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred in flames?
When I think of how others have suffered for the faith, a little scorn or unkindness seems a mere trifle, not worthy of mention. An ancestry of lovers of the faith ought to be a great plea with us to abide by the Lord God of our fathers, and the faith in which they lived. As for me, I must hold the old gospel; I can do no other. God helping me, I will endure the consequences of what men think obstinacy.
Look you, sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to this truth today. I charge you, not only by your ancestry, but by your posterity, that you seek to win the commendation of your Master, that though you dwell where Satan’s seat is, you yet hold fast His name, and do not deny His faith. God grant us faithfulness, for the sake of the souls around us! How is the world to be saved if the church is false to her Lord? How are we to lift the masses if our fulcrum is removed? If our gospel is uncertain, what remains but increasing misery and despair? Stand fast, my beloved in the name of God!
Our only business is to cry, “Behold the Lamb!” To tell of Jesus is our occupation, we have nothing to say which is not comprised in the revelation made to us by God in Jesus Christ. He who is our comfort is our theme.
Excerpted: MacArthur, “Ashamed of the Gospel,” Crossway Books, 1993