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    Charles Spurgeon on Christian War Fever

    Published: Monday, June 3, 2019

    Charles Spurgeon on Christian War Fever
    (Excerpted from various sermons; edited by Laurence Vance)

    “Long have I held that war is an enormous crime.”

    “So combustible are the materials of which this great world is made, that I am ever apprehensive of war. I do not account it wonderful that one nation should strive against another, I account if far more wonderful that they are not all at arms. Whence come wars and fightings? Come they not from your lusts?”

    “Sin is the mother of wars.”

    “It is astonishing how distance blunts the keen edge of anything that is disagreeable. War is at all times a most fearful scourge. The thought of slain bodies and of murdered men must always harrow up the soul; but because we hear of these things in the distance, there are few Englishmen who can truly enter into their horrors. If we should hear the booming of cannon on the deep which girdles this island; if we should see at our doors the marks of carnage and bloodshed; then should we more thoroughly appreciate what war means.

    But distance takes away the horror, and we therefore speak of war with too much levity, and even read of it with an interest not sufficiently linked with pain.”

    “He is the God of peace, for he is the restorer of it; though wars have broken out through sin. He is the preserver of peace. Whenever I see peace in the world, I ascribe it to God, and if it is continued, I shall always believe it is because God interferes to prevent war.”

    “The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies. We have all thought otherwise in our time, and have foolishly said when a fresh territory was annexed to our empire, ‘Ah! what a providence that England has annexed Oude’--or taken to itself some other territory--‘Now a door is opened for the Gospel. A Christian power will necessarily encourage Christianity, and seeing that a Christian power is at the head of the Government, it will be likely that the natives will be induced to search into the authenticity of our revelation, and so great results will follow. Who can tell but that, at the point of the British bayonet, the Gospel will be carried, and that, by the edge of the true sword of valiant men, Christ’s Gospel will be proclaimed?’ I have said so myself; and now I know I am a fool for my pains, and that Christ’s church hath been also miserably befooled; for this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it.”

    “Did you ever hear of a nation under British rule being converted to God? Mr. Moffat and our great friend Dr. Livingstone have been laboring in Africa with great success, and many have been converted. Did you ever hear of Kaffir tribes protected by England, ever being converted? It is only a people that have been left to themselves, and preached to by men as men, that have been brought to God. All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to "peace on earth, goodwill to men."

    And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them.”

    “If tyrants fight, let them fight; let free men stand aloof. Why should England have aught to do with all the coming battles? As God has cut us off from Europe by a boisterous sea, so let us be kept apart from all the broils and turmoils into which tyrants and their slaves may fall.”

    “The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel.”

    “War is to our minds the most difficult thing to sanctify to God. The genius of the Christian religion is altogether contrary to everything like strife of any kind, much more to the deadly clash of arms. . . . Now I say again, I am no apologist for war, from my soul I loathe it, and I do not understand the position of a Christian man as a warrior, but still I greatly rejoice that there are to be found at this present day in the ranks many of those who fear God and adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.”

    “For if there be anything which this book [the Bible] denounces and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the crime of war.”

    “The fight-spirit must be battled with in all its forms, and the genius of gentleness must be cultivated. Cruelty to animals, the lust for destroying living things, the desire for revenge, the indulgence of anger--all these we must war against by manifesting and inculcating pity, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and goodness in the fear of the Lord.

    Children must be trained with meekness and not with passion, and our dealings with our fellow-men must manifest our readiness to suffer wrong rather than to inflict it upon others. Nor is this all: the truth as to war must be more and more insisted on: the loss of time, labour, treasure, and life must be shown, and the satanic crimes to which it leads must be laid bare.

    It is the sum of all villainies, and ought to be stripped of its flaunting colours, and to have its bloody horrors revealed; its music should be hushed, that men may hear the moans and groans, the cries and shrieks of dying men and ravished women. War brings out the devil in man, wakes up the hellish legion within his fallen nature, and binds his better faculties hand and foot.

    “Its natural tendency is to hurl nations back into barbarism, and retard the growth of everything good and holy. When undertaken from a dire necessity, as the last resource of an oppressed people, it may become heroic, and its after results may compensate for its immediate evils; but war wantonly undertaken, for self-interest, ambition, or wounded pride is evil, only evil, and that continually. It ought not to be smiled upon as a brilliant spectacle, nor talked of with a light heart; it is a fitter theme for tears and intercessions. To see a soldier a Christian is a joy; to see a Christian a soldier is another matter.”

    “Many of our bravest soldiers are on the side of peace, and in the present crisis have spoken out more boldly on the right side than we might reasonably have expected of them. This must be duly acknowledged and taken into account, and we must speak accordingly.”

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892) was an English Baptist minister who served as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London from 1861 until his death. But Spurgeon was no ordinary minister. He was a pastor, a preacher, a teacher, an author, an editor, and the overseer of a pastor’s college, a Christian literature society, and an orphanage. He is still widely revered today among Baptists (and others as well) as one of the greatest Baptist ministers in history.

    Spurgeon preached his first sermon as a teenager and, in 1854, was called to the pastorate of the historic New Park Street Church, Southwark, London. During his thirty-eight-year tenure, the church increased from 232 to over 5,000. [And remember, this was in a day when the only attraction to the church was the preaching of God’s Word: no rock music; no smoke; no colored lights; no espresso machines; no twenty-minute sermonettes, etc.] During the remodeling of the Park Street chapel to house the growing congregation, Spurgeon preached at the 5,000-seat Exeter Hall, a public auditorium. But because the remodeled chapel was still too small to accommodate the crowds, the church began construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which sat 5,500 and had standing room for 500 more. In the interim, Spurgeon preached to thousands at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. He was truly one of the most popular preachers in history. When he died in 1892, 60,000 people filed past his casket in the Tabernacle.

    Spurgeon lives today through his sermons. From 1855 until his death, his Sunday morning sermons were published weekly. By 1865, Spurgeon’s sermons were selling 25,000 copies every week. They would eventually be translated into more than twenty languages. The sermons were then collected in one volume and reissued at the end of each year in book form. After Spurgeon’s death, the series continued until 1917 using his Sunday evening sermons. The six volumes of the New Park Street Pulpit (1855–1860) and the fifty-seven volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (1861–1917) contain 3,561 sermons, 25 million words, and fill 41,500 pages. Many of these volumes are available online, and most are in print.

    Unlike some Baptist preachers today who shamelessly serve as spokesmen or apologists for [war], Spurgeon was not the least bit excited about war and war fever.

     


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