Charles Haddon Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was an English Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations, among whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers.” He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day.
Storming The Battlements, (an excerpt)
Delivered on Sabbath morning, September 16, 1855, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
“Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD’S.” – Jeremiah 5:10. (KJV)
Jerusalem had sinned against God. She had rebelled against the Most High, had set up for herself false gods and bowed before them. And when God threatened her with chastisement, she built around herself strong battlements and bastions. She said, “I am safe and secure. What though JEHOVAH has gone away, I will trust in the gods of nations. Though the Temple is cast down, yet we will rely upon these bulwarks and strong fortifications that we have erected.” “Ah!” said God, “Jerusalem, I will punish you. You are My chosen one, therefore will I chastise you. I will gather together mighty men and will speak unto them. I will bid them come unto you and they shall visit you for these things. My soul shall be avenged on such a nation as this.” And He calls together the Chaldeans and Babylonians and says to those fierce men who speak in uncouth language, “Go you up upon her walls and destroy, but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.” Thus God used wicked men to be His scourge to chastise a still more wicked nation, who were yet the objects of His affection and love.
First, I think this may be spoken by God of His church. “Go you up against her,” says He to her enemies, “take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.” This may also be spoken to many a Christian. God often bids troubles and enemies go up against Christians to take away their battlements that are not the Lord’s.
First, then, I shall regard this text as spoken concerning THE CHURCH.
God frequently says to the church’s enemies, “Go you up against her, but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.” God’s church is very fond of building walls which her God has not sanctioned. She is not content to trust in the arm of God, but she will add thereto some extraneous help which God utterly abhors. “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, upon the sides of the north, the city of the great king. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, even so is God round about His people, from henceforth, forevermore.” But His people are not content with God’s being round about them, they seek some other protection. The church has very often gone to King Jareb for help, or to the world for aid, and then God has said to her enemies, “Go you up against her, but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S. She shall not have them. I am her battlement. She is to have none other.”
1. The first I may mention is this. The church of God has sometimes sought to make the government its battlements. There was a church anciently in Rome, a holy and pious church of God, whose members worshipped and bowed down before the God of Israel. But a certain wily monarch called Constantine, who believed that should he turn Christian he should thus secure the empire more firmly to himself and put down sundry other commanders, who were helped by the priests. In order to gain his own ends and promote his own honor, he pretends to see a vision in the skies and professes to become a Christian, makes himself the head of the church, and leader of the faithful. The church fell into his arms, and then state and church became allied. What was the consequence of the church of Rome becoming allied with the state? Why she has become a corrupt mass of impurity, such a disgrace to the world that the sooner the last vestige of her shall be swept away, the better. This was because she built up bulwarks that are not the Lord’s and God has said to her enemies, “Go you up upon her walls.” Yea, her apostasy is now so great, that doubtless, the Judge of all the earth shall make a “full end” of her, and the prophecy of the Apocalypse shall be fulfilled, “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”
There are true Protestant churches standing now that have made unholy alliances with governments. Christ testified, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and yet they have crouched at the feet of kings and monarchs. They have obtained state endowments and grants, and so they have become high and mighty, and honorable, and they laugh at those pure churches who will not buckle and commit fornication with the kings of the earth, but who stand out for the royal supremacy of the Savior, and look only to Christ as the Head of the church. They apply to us the epithets of “schismatics,” “dissenters,” and such-like, but I believe that God shall yet say of every state-church, whether it be the Church of England, Ireland, Scotland, or of anywhere else, “Go you up upon her walls and destroy, but make not a full end,” for there are thousands of pious men in her midst, “take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.” Even now we see a stir throughout the world to take away these battlements. The holy and pious men in the Church of England have multiplied amazingly during the last few years. It is pleasing to see the great improvement in the Establishment. I think no class of Christians have made more speedy advances in reformation than they have. They have a stirring in their midst and are saying, “Why should we be under the government any longer?” There are many clergymen who have said, “We have no wish whatever for this union. We would be glad to get away from all state control.” I wonder why they do not do it and follow their convictions? They are saying, “take away her battlements, they are not the LORD’S.” And if they do not take them away themselves, we are advancing by slow degrees and by the aid of heaven, we will take away their battlements for them one of these fine days, and they will wake and find that church taxes and tithes have ceased, that they must stand or fall themselves, that God’s church is strong enough to stand herself, without government. It will be a happy day for the Church of England—God bless her.
I love her when those battlements are taken down, when the last stone of state patronage is thrown down, when the unneeded help of kings and princes shall be refused. Then she will come out a glorious church, like a sheep from the washing. She will be the honor of our land and we who now stand aloof from her will be far more likely to fall into her bosom, for her Articles are the very marrow of truth, and many of her sons are the excellent of the earth. Oh! angel, soon blow your trumpet of war and give the command! “Go you up upon her walls, make not a full end.” She is one of My churches, “take away her battlements. They are not the LORD’S.” He has nothing to do with such a battlement, He hates it altogether—state alliance is obnoxious to the God of Israel. And when kings shall become real nursing fathers, they will in another mode afford the gold of Sheba and the free-will offering of their piety.
2. But there are other churches that are making battlements for themselves. These are to be found among us, as well as other denominations. There are churches who make battlements out of the wealth of their members. It is a respectable congregation, a most respectable church, the members are, most of them, wealthy. They say within themselves, “We are a strong and wealthy church. There is nothing can hurt us. We stand fast.” You will find wherever that idea possesses the mind, prayer meetings will be ill attended. They do not think it necessary to pray much to keep up the cause. “If a five pound note is wanted,” says a brother, “we can give it.” They do not think it necessary to have a preacher to bring together the multitude, they are strong enough in themselves. They are a glorious corporation of quiet personages. They like to hear a drawing room preacher. They would think it beneath their dignity to enjoy anything which the populace could understand. That would be a degradation to their high and honorable position. We know some churches now—it would be invidious to point the finger at them— where wealth and rank are reckoned to be the first thing.
Now, we do love to have wealth and rank in our own midst, we always thank God when He has brought among us men who can do something for the cause of truth. We bless God when we see Zacchaeus, who had abundance of gold and silver, giving some of his gifts to the poor of the Lord’s family. We like to see the princes and kings bringing presents and bowing before the King of all the earth, but if any church bows before the golden calf, there will go forth the mandate, “Go you up upon her walls; but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.” And down the church will come. God shall humble it. He will bring it down from its high position. He will say, “Though you sit on the rocks and build your house among the stars of heaven, even there will I pluck you down and this right hand shall reach you.” God will not have His church relying on man and putting trust in princes. “Cursed shall be such-a-one,” He says, “he shall be like a shrub in the desert, he shall not see when good comes; his leaf shall wither and he shall bring forth no fruit unto perfection.”
3. There are some other churches relying upon learning and erudition. The learning of their ministers seems to be a great fort, bastion, and castle. They say, for instance, “What do these uneducated and unrefined preachers? Of what use are they? We like men of sound argument, men who give a large amount of biblical criticism, who can decide this, that, and the other.” They rely upon their minister. He is their tower of strength. He is their all in all. He happens to be a learned man. They say, “What is the use for anyone to oppose him? See the amount of his learning! Why his enemies would be cut in pieces, because he is so mighty and learned.” Never let it be said that I have despised learning or true knowledge. Let us have as much as we can. We thank God when men of learning are brought into the church, when God renders then useful. But the church nowadays is beginning to trust too much to learning, relying too much on philosophy, and upon the understanding of man instead of the Word of God. I do believe a large proportion of professing Christians have their faith in the word of man and not in the Word of God. They say, “Such-and-such a divine said so, that So-and-so beautifully explained that passage, and it must be right.” But whatever church shall do this, God will say, “Go you up upon her walls; make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the LORD’S.”
4. But I think that the worst battlement the churches now have is an earthwork of great and extreme caution. It is held to be improper that certain obnoxious truths in the Bible should be preached. Sundry reasons are given why they should be withheld. One is because it tends to discourage men from coming to Christ. Another is because certain persons will be offended on account of these rough edges of the Gospel. Some would say, “O keep them back! You need not preach such-and-such a doctrine. Why preach distinguishing grace? Why divine sovereignty? Why election? Why perseverance? Why effectual calling? These are calculated to offend the people, they cannot endure such truths. If you tell them about the love of Christ and the vast mercy of God, and such like, it will always be pleasing and satisfying, but you must never preach deep searching law-work. You must not be cutting at the heart and sending the lancet into the soul—that would be dangerous.”
Hence most churches are shielding themselves behind an ignominious bulwark of extreme caution. You never hear their ministers spoken against. They are quite safe behind the screen. You will be very much puzzled to tell what are the real doctrinal views of our modern divines. I believe you will pick up in some poor humble chapel more doctrinal knowledge in half an hour, than in some of your larger chapels in half a century. God’s church must be brought once more to rely upon the pure truth, upon the simple Gospel, the unalloyed doctrines of the grace of God. O may this church never have any bulwark but the promises of God! May He be her strength and shield! May His protection be o’er our head and be our constant guard! May we never depart from the simplicity of the faith! And whether men hear or whether they forbear, may we say,
“Should all the forms that men devise
Assault my soul with treacherous art
I’ll call them vanities and lies
And bind the Gospel to my heart.”