By the time Charles Spurgeon was 22 years old, his preaching ministry in London was enormously successful, and with that success came controversies of various kinds throughout his life. The first serious public controversy he dealt with was over a small hymnbook named, "The Rivulet," published in 1855 by Thomas Lynch. Soon after its publication the hymnbook's theology was criticized for being contrary to evangelical religion, and Spurgeon himself saw the hymnbook as an affront to the biblical gospel. The controversy soon faded, but Spurgeon's sermons, of course, live on. During that controversy Spurgeon preached a message on 1 Timothy 3:15, "the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth," and here Spurgeon makes a compelling appeal for pastors and churches to stand firm in the truth of God's Word. He opens the sermon saying:
This is a day of strife, a day of division, a time of war and fighting between professing Christians. God be thanked for it! Far better that it should be so than that the false calm shall any longer exert its fatal spell over us.
What follows is a powerful appeal to the Church to remember its vital calling to defend the truth at all costs. As I read this sermon, I couldn't help but think about how important Spurgeon's message is for today's church, where so often biblical doctrine, theology, and truth have taken a backseat to lesser ends. So this evening I thank God for Spurgeon, but more importantly, for the eternal Word, and for the Church, which is a "pillar and buttress of truth." May we heed Spurgeon's words well...
Remember how your fathers, in times gone by, defended God's truth, and blush, ye cowards, who are afraid to maintain it! Remember that our Bible is a blood-stained book; the blood of martyrs is on the Bible, the blood of translators and confessors. The pool of holy baptism, in which many of you have been baptized, is a blood-stained pool: full many have had to die for the vindication of that baptism which is "the answer of a good conscience toward God." The doctrines which we preach to you are doctrines that have been baptized in blood, swords have been drawn to slay the confessors of them; and there is not a truth which has not been sealed by them at the stake, or the block, or far away on the lofty mountains, where they have been slain by hundreds. It is but a little duty we have to discharge compared with theirs. They were called to maintain the truth when they had to die for it; you only have to maintain the truth when taunt and jeer, ignominious names and contemptuous epithets are all you have to endure for it. What! Do you expect easy lives? While some have led through seas of blood, and have fought to win the prize, are you wearied with a slight skirmish on dry land? What would you do if God should suffer persecuting days to overtake you? O craven spirits, ye would flee away, and disown your profession! Be ye the pillar and ground of the truth. Let the blood of martyrs, let the voices of confessors, speak to you. Remember how they held fast the truth, how they preserved it, and handed it down to us from generation to generation; and by their noble example, I beseech you, be steadfast and faithful, tread valiantly and firmly in their steps, acquit yourselves like men, like men of God, I implore you! Shall we not have some champions, in these times, who will deal sternly with heresies for the love of the truth, men who will stand like rocks in the center of the sea, so that, when all others shake, they stand invulnerable and invincible? Thou who art tossed about by every wind of doctrine, farewell; I own thee not till God shall give thee grace to stand firm for his truth, and not to be ashamed o fhim nor of his words in this evil generation.
And all that, over a little hymnbook.
O, for more champions of truth, like Spurgeon, today!