Another Spurgeon Merry Christmas


Times of Feasting: The Merry Bell, the Sermon Bell, and the Funeral Bell

From my recent reading through the Spurgeon volumes, comes this very interesting Christmas sermon: #352, December 23, 1860. This is the most unusual text I’ve ever seen for a “Merry Christmas” message, and yet one that surely does fit with how people actually spend Christmas:  Job 1:4-5, about the feasting of Job’s sons and daughters, and Job’s praying for them.  The point of the message is that it is proper and fitting to celebrate good times, to enjoy feasts with one another.  Spurgeon noted other texts of scripture as well: the wedding feast of Cana in John 2 (and I also just listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s sermon on that text); Jesus’ overall reputation as one who came eating and drinking; and the Old Testament feast days appointed by God Himself.

S. Lewis Johnson (Exposition of John 2):

Our Lord approved festival times.  He came and participated in the joy of the wedding feast.  Some have pictured him as a pale Galilean and done great harm to Christianity because Christianity is not of that negative ascetic character.  So he approved festive times and, I think as Christians, we should approve festive times and participate.

And from Adolph Saphir, “The Divine Unity of Scripture”:

It was the idea of God to make His people happy before Him, so that under the law of Moses there were very few fast days, but a great number of feast days, in which the people were to rejoice before the Lord God in the beautiful harvest, and in all the bounties, with which He had surrounded them.

Spurgeon highlighted the merry bell, the sermon bell, and the funeral bell.

  • The Merry Bell of the festive text.  Good men of old have feasted, as well as Jesus Himself
  • The Sermon Bell: the context of the text, which is instructive.  Let your prayer be, “Hold me up, and I shall be safe.” Let your daily cry be, especially you young Christians, yes and you old Christians. too, “Lord, keep me! Keep my heart, I pray You, for out of it are the issues of my life.”
  • The Funeral Bell: That which follows the text, which is afflictive–  Between the table and the coffin there is but a step; between the feast and the funeral there may be but a day; and the very bell that rings the marriage peal tolls the funeral knell!

The Merry Bell includes the caution – “it may be” that my sons have sinned.  The feasting itself was not sin, though, and Job did not know of any sins, or he would have made the statement definite.  Still, “it may be,” and the remedy:  Job sent for his sons, as a father; he sanctified them as a preacher; he sacrificed for them as a priest.

The Funeral Bell relates to a selection from my readings today (in my 9 list Horner Style Genre Reading): Ecclesiastes 7:2 — ​​​​​​​It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 

Yet as Ecclesiastes also tells us, there is a time for everything, including the times for feasting and celebrating.  In closing, an excerpt from Spurgeon concerning the Christmas holiday:

In Cromwell’s days, the Puritans thought it an ungodly thing for men to keep Christmas. They, therefore, tried to put it down, and the common crier went through the street announcing that Christmas was henceforth no more to be kept, it being a Popish, if not a heathen ceremony! Now, you do not suppose that after the crier had made the proclamation, any living Englishman took any notice of it! At least I can scarcely imagine that any did, except to laugh at it; for it is idle thus to strain at gnats and stagger under a feather! Albeit that we do not keep the feast as Papists—nor even as a commemorative festival—yet there is a something in old associations that makes us like the day in which a man may shake off the cares of business, and disport himself with his little ones. God forbid I should be such a Puritan as to proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the laboring man! … Though I would not have as many saint’s days as there are in Roman Catholic countries—yet if we had but one or two more days in which the poor man’s household, and the rich man’s family might meet together—it might perhaps be better for us. However, I am quite certain that all the preaching in the world will not put Christmas down—you will meet next Tuesday, and you will feast, and you will rejoice, and each of you, as God has given you substance, will endeavor to make your household glad!

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