Extracts from C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography
June 19.Â—My birthday. Sixteen years have I lived upon this earth, and yet I am onlyÂ—scarcely six months old! I am very young in grace. Yet how much time have I wasted, dead in trespasses and sins, without life, without God, in the world! What a mercy that I did not perish in my sin! How glorious is my calling, how exalted my election, born of the LordÂ—regenerate! Help me more than ever to walk worthily, as becomes a saint!
May 8.Â—Teachers’ business meeting. Too much joking and levity to agree with my notions of what a Sunday-school teacher should be. Lord, keep me from the evil of the world, let me not be led away; but if these are Thy people, help me to serve Thee better than they, and to be more like my Master! O my God, keep me ever near to Thee, help me to live more to Thy glory, and to honour Thee more than I have hitherto done, to live alone for Thee, and to spend and be spent in Thy service! Preserve, perfect, keep, and bless me!
“Keep me, oh, keep me. King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings!”
In my first pastorate, I had often to battle with AntinomiansÂ— that is, people who held that, because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked. I hope that heresy has to a great extent died out, but it was sadly prevalent in my early ministerial days. I knew one man, who stood on the table of public-house, and held a glass of gin in his hand, declaring all the while that he was one of the chosen people of God. They kicked him out of the public-house, and when I heard of it, I felt that it served him right. Even those ungodly men said that they did not want any such “elect” people there. There is no one who can live in sinÂ—drinking, swearing, lying, and so onÂ—who can truly declare that he is one of the Lord’s chosen people. I recollect one such manÂ—and he was a very bad fellowÂ—yet he had the hardihood to say, “I know that I am one of God’s dear people.” “So you are,” said I; “dear at any price, either to be given or thrown away!” He did not like my plain speaking, but it was true, for that was the only sense in which he was one of God’s dear people. From my very soul, I detest everything that in the least savours of the Antinomianism which leads people to prate about being secure in Christ while they are living in sin. We cannot be saved by or for our good works, neither can we be saved without
good works. Christ never will save any of His people in their sins;
He saves His people from their sins. If a man is not desiring to live a holy life in the sight of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he is still “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity”. I used to know a man of this class, who talked a great deal about “saving faith”. He was notorious for his evil life, so I could not make out what he meant by saving faith, until the collection was taken, and I noticed how carefully he put his finger-nail round a threepenny piece for fear lest it should be a fourpenny; then I understood his meaning. But the idea of “saving faith” apart from good works, is ridiculous. The saved man is not a perfect man, but his heart’s desire is to become perfect, he is always panting after perfection, and the day will come when he will be perfected, after the image of his once crucified and now glorified Saviour, in knowledge and true holiness.
While I was minister at Waterbeach, I used to have a man sitting in front of the gallery, who would always nod his head when I was preaching what he considered sound doctrine, although he was about as bad an old hypocrite as ever lived. When I talked about justification, down went his head; when I preached about imputed righteousness, down it went again. I was a dear good man in his estimation, without doubt. So I thought I would cure him of nodding, or at least make his head keep still for once; so 1 remarked, “There is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself; a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by His Spirit, and your justifying yourself by a false belief, or presumption; this is the difference,” said IÂ—and the old man at once put me down as a rank ArminianÂ—”you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, have no marks of the Spirit of God; you have no evidence of genuine piety, you are not holy men and women, you can live in sin, you can walk as sinners walk, you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you call yourselves the children of God. One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life.” The old Antinomian did not approve of that doctrine, but I knew that I was preaching what was revealed in the Word of God.
While I was at Waterbeach, I had one man who caused me many bitter tears. When I first knew him, he was the ringleader in all that was bad; a tall, fine, big fellow, and one who could, perhaps, drink more than any man for miles around himÂ—a man who would curse and swear, and never knew a thought of fear. He was the terror of the neighbourhood; there were many incendiary fires in the region, and most people attributed them to him. Sometimes, he would be drunk for two or three weeks at a spell, and then he raved and raged like a madman. That man came to hear me; I recollect the sensation that went through the little chapel when he entered. He sat there, and fell in love with me; I think that was the only conversion that he experienced, but he professed to be
converted. He had, apparently, been the subject of genuine repentance, and he became outwardly quite a changed character:
he gave up his drinking and his swearing, and was in many respects an exemplary individual. All the parish was astonished. There was old Tom So-and-so weeping, and it was rumoured about that he felt impressed; he began regularly to attend the chapel, and was manifestly an altered man. The public-house lost an excellent customer; he was not seen in the skittle-alley, nor was he detected in the drunken rows that were so common in the neighbourhood. After a while, he ventured to come forward at the prayer-meeting;
he talked about what he had experienced, what he had felt and known. I heard him pray; it was rough, rugged language, but there was such impassioned earnestness, I set him down as being a bright jewel in the Redeemer’s crown. He held out six, nay, nine months he persevered in our midst. If there was rough work to be done, he would do it; if there was a Sunday-school to be maintained, six or seven miles away, he would walk there. At any risk, he would be out to help in the Lord’s work; if he could but be of service to the meanest member of the Church of Christ, he rejoiced greatly. I remember seeing him tugging a barge, with perhaps a hundred people on board, whom he was drawing up to a place where I was going .to preach; and he was glorying in the work, and singing as gladly and happily as any one of them. If anybody spoke a word against the Lord or His servant, he did not hesitate a moment, but
knocked him over.
So he went on for a time, but, at last, the laughter to which he was exposed, the jeers and scoffs of his old companionsÂ—though at first he bore them like a manÂ—became too much for him. He began to think he had been a little too fanatical, a little too earnest. He slunk up to the place of worship instead of coming boldly in; he gradually forsook the week-night service, and then neglected the Sabbath-day; and, though often warned, and often rebuked, he returned to his old habits, and any thoughts of God or godliness that he had ever known, seemed to die away. He could again utter the blasphemer’s oath; once more he could act wickedly with the profane; and heÂ—of whom we had often boasted, and said, in our prayer-meetings, “Oh! how much is God glorified by this man’s conversion! What cannot Divine grace do?” Â—to the confusion of us all, was to be seen sometimes drunk in our streets, and then it was thrown in our teeth, “This is one of your Christians, is it?Â—one of your converts gone back again, and become as bad as he was before?” Before I left the district, I was afraid that there was no real work of grace in him. He was a wild Red Indian sort of a man; and I have heard of him taking a bird, plucking it, and eating it raw in the field. That was not the act of a Christian man, it was not one of the things that are comely, and of good repute. After I left the neighbourhood, I asked after him, and I could hear nothing good of him; he became worse than he was before, if that was possible; certainly, he was no better, and seemed to be unreachable by any agency.