C.H. Spurgeon: “The Soul Winner”
Spurgeon, in this sermon preached in 1869, talks about the excuses used by many to avoid joining a local church. Though the illustrations are part of the 19th century, the excuses are many of the same ones that we hear today.
Now, I know there are some who say, “Well, I hope I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church, because … .” Now, why not? “Because I can be a Christian without it.” Now, are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? Well, suppose everybody else did the same, suppose all Christians in the world said, “I shall not join the church.” Why there would be no visible church, there would be no ordinances. That would be a very bad thing, and yet, one doing it—what is right for one is right for all—why should not all of us do it? Then you believe that if you were to do an act which has a tendency to destroy the visible church of God, you would be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up that church? I do not believe it, sir! nor do you either. You have not any such a belief, it is only a trumpery excuse for something else.
There is a brick—a very good one. What is the brick made for? To help to build a house with. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick; until it is built into the wall, it is no good. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose; you are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.
“Oh!” says one, “though I hope I love the Lord, yet if I were to join the church, I should feel it such a bond upon me.” Just what you ought to feel. Ought you not to feel that you are bound to holiness now, now, and bound to Christ now? Oh! those blessed bonds! If there is anything that could make me feel more bound to holiness than I am, I should like to feel that fetter, for it is only liberty to feel bound to godliness, and uprightness, and carefulness of living.
“Oh!” says another, “if I were to join the church, I am afraid that I would not be able to hold on.” You expect to hold on, I suppose, out of the church—that is to say, you feel safer in disobeying Christ than in obeying Him! Strange feeling, that! Oh! you had better come and say, “My Master, I know Your saints ought to be united together in church fellowship, for churches were instituted by Your apostles, and I trust I have grace to carry out the obligation. I have no strength of my own, my Master, but my strength lies in resting upon You. I will follow where You lead, and leave the rest to You.”
“Ah! but,” says another, “I cannot join the church, it is so imperfect.” You then are perfect, of course! If so, I advise you to go to heaven, and join the church there, for certainly you are not fit to join it on earth, and would be quite out of place. “Yes,” says another, “but I see so much that is wrong about Christians.” There is nothing wrong in yourself, I suppose! I can only say, my brethren, that if the church of God is not better than I am, I am sorry for it. I felt, when I joined the church, that I would be getting a deal more good than I should be likely to bring into it, and with all the faults I have seen in living these twenty years or more in the Christian church, I can say, as an honest man, that the members of the church are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all my delight, though they are not perfect, but a long way from it. If, out of heaven, there are to be found any who really live near to God, it is the members of the church of Christ.
“Ah!” says another, “but there are a rare lot of hypocrites.” You are very sound and sincere yourself, I suppose? I trust you are so, but then you ought to come and join the church, to add to its soundness by your own. I am sure, my dear friends, none of you will shut up your shops tomorrow morning, or refuse to take a sovereign when a customer comes in, because there happen to be some smashers about who are dealing with bad coins. No, not you, and you do not believe the theory of some, that because some professing Christians are hypocrites, therefore all are, for that would be as though you should say that because some sovereigns are bad, therefore all are bad, which would be clearly wrong, for if all sovereigns were counterfeits, it would never pay for the counterfeiter to try to pass his counterfeits—it is the quantity of good metal that passes off the bad. There is a fine good quantity of respectable golden Christians still in the world and still in the church, rest assured of that.
“Well,” says one, “I do not think—though I hope I am a servant of God—that I can join the church, you see, it is so looked down upon.” Oh! what a blessed look-down that is! I do think, brethren, there is no honor in the world equal to that of being looked down upon by that which is called “Society” in this country. The most of people are slaves to what they call “respectability.” For my own part, to be despised, pointed at, hooted in the streets, called by all manner of ill names—I would accept it all sooner than all the stars of knighthoods and peerages, if the service of Christ necessitated it, for this is the true honor of the Christian when he truly serves his Master.
~ From Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermon Joining the Church, preached on October 24, 1869, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.