Home > C. H. Spurgeon, church life, Old Testament, Worldview > Spurgeon’s Practical, Close-to-Home Sermons

Spurgeon’s Practical, Close-to-Home Sermons

April 27, 2012

A well-known blogger, who also likes Spurgeon, has often pointed to a shortcoming in Spurgeon, that he never preached on practical matters, only high doctrine.  I understand his point, in that Spurgeon excelled in textual preaching, and even when preaching from “practical” texts dealing with Christian living, Spurgeon would take off in another “textual” direction instead.

In a different sense, though, Spurgeon was very practical and encouraging, with hard-hitting messages and many illustrations of daily life.  I’m now reading through Spurgeon’s volume 6 (1860) sermons.  Numbers 320 and 321 I found especially encouraging, as ones that hit very close to home.  The first of these, Contentment, includes great reminders of God’s sovereignty and wisdom in placing us exactly where we need to be in our daily circumstances of life:

You kneel down in the morning and you say, “Your will be done!” Suppose you get up and want your own will and rebel against the dispensation of your heavenly Father—have you not made yourself out to be a hypocrite? The language of your prayer is at variance with the feeling of your heart; let it always be sufficient for you to think that you are where God put you.

In the second message, The Jeer of Sarcasm, and the Retort of Piety, Spurgeon takes a longer than usual (for him) passage:  3 full verses, 2 Samuel 6:20-22, the occasion of Michal’s criticism of David after he danced before the Lord while bringing in the ark.

You may suppose there is very little suffering for Christ now—I speak what I know—there is still a vast deal of suffering! I do not mean burning, I do not mean hanging, I do not mean persecution by law. It is a sort of slow martyrdom. I can tell you how it is effected. Everything a young man does is thrown in his teeth; things harmless and indifferent in themselves are twisted into accusation that he does wrong. If he speaks, his words are brought up against him. If he is silent it is worse. Whatever he does is misrepresented and from morning to night there is the taunt always ready.

How accurate Spurgeon was, in the descriptions of “slow martyrdom” for those who face such persecution from a close family member, even a wife or husband.  The jeer of sarcasm may not happen every moment or even every day.  Likewise Michal only made this specific jeer on this one occasion.  But it does come up frequently, providing a definite barrier and limitation to free communication in one’s own home, and in a way similar to what Spurgeon described.  Remain silent, saying nothing about your own beliefs and that which you love (great doctrines from the word of God), and be accused of “not being any fun” and a “boring person to be around.”  Quietly spend time reading God’s word before breakfast and the workday begins – oh that’s too fanatical, and you should just get more sleep, don’t try to do all that.  The jeerer — a nominal Christian like David’s Michal, focused more on form than substance — cannot understand such behavior as anything other than “being legalistic” and “thinking you know everything.”  Personal sanctification – as practiced in the desire for entertainment that is more edifying, eschewing secular music and books that include foul language – is likewise seen as arrogance and legalism.

I like the term he used, “slow martyrdom,” and recall what I considered on this matter a few years ago: the feeling that it would be easier to endure a sudden, one-time event that led to martyrdom, since tradition martyrdom does involve a brief incident with a generally known “end date” at which time the person is free from the persecution, away from the body and at home with the Lord.  By contrast, the continual day-in-day-out life with an unbeliever doesn’t have a known end-point and “quick escape,” but a long delay and continued trials and persecution, and still having to live in this world.

Spurgeon recognized these types of people, the jeerers (Michal) and the pious (David), acknowledging that some believers, in God’s providence, must experience this type of “slow martyrdom” in their own homes, even as others are spared that particular trial.  He also noted that it happens just as much with husbands critical of godly wives as vice versa, and made great application from the David and Michal situation.

In closing, another excerpt of encouragement from this Spurgeon sermon:

Ah, Brothers and Sisters, you need not fear, you can bear witness for the Truth of God whatever is said—you must bear with the slanderer and forbear. If they throw anything in your teeth, still stand up for your Lord Jesus.  Don’t yield a single inch, and the day shall come when you shall have honor even in the eyes of those who in the world once laughed at you and put you to open shame.

  1. April 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Lynda — what an excellent post and a great tribute to Spurgeon! Your own examples of practical application are top notch as well. Please permit me an extended explanation of why your examples and Spurgeon’s comment about ‘slow martyrdom’ are truly represented in the biblical perspective.

    Where Word of Faith theology says struggle indicates a lack of God’s blessing, the Christians of 1 Peter seem to be wondering “how can we be struggling so in light of our great blessings in Christ?” [1 Peter 2:4-8].

    They’re asking: “In light of the fact that that we have come to Christ in faith: Why are we being chastised, reproached, reviled, disgraced, heaped upon with insults, taunted, ridiculed, provoked, blamed, denounced by the people of this world? This stuff wasn’t happening before we came to Christ. But now that we’ve received these rich spiritual blessings from God, the flood gates have opened, and there’s this real tension and struggle with those around us, and we want to know if this is normal?

    “For this to be happening … is something necessarily wrong with our faith? Is this rejection a sign that our theology is kinked? Does this mean that we really aren’t blessed?” And Peter’s answer is NO! These are the sufferings that men endure simply by virtue of the fact that they are Christians …. And because they are genuinely the people of God.

    And Peter gives them the answer to their puzzling issue about rejection in 2:4-8: The short answer? The reason that you are struggling in this manner is that God has willed such treatment to be so. (I said short, not simple).

    My guess is that these persecutions that Peter’s readers are receiving [and in reality, not much different than many of our own] are not the violent death-threatening press release persecutions we’ve come to think they are. They aren’t the burnings and death and torture that most historians tend to glamorize. I don’t think Peter suggests that this is the full-scaled persecution we’ve heard of, but rather: alienation, estrangement and being ostracized from society. The kind of persecution where people might be thinking, “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE,” which ultimately impacts the way they speak about you. A ‘slow martyrdom’ if you will.

    Yes, those violent persecutions did happen, but I don’t think Peter was referring to full scaled persecutions for a couple of reasons:

    There are at least 8 references in peter’s First Epistle to the fact that these are ‘verbal abuses’ that they are receiving:

    NKJ 1 Peter 2:12 — having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they *speak against you* as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    1 Peter 3:15 — and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are *slandered, those who revile (insult)* your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

    1 Peter 4:4 — In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, *speaking evil of you.*

    These are all spoken persecutions. They are receiving exactly the same verbal chastisements that Christ said all who believed in Him would experience in MT. 5:11.

    NKJ Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they *revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely* for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    An excellent reflection Lynda. Thanks.

    • April 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Thanks for sharing that, Rick — good observations from 1 Peter about the different types of persecution experienced in the early church.

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