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The Firts Sermon in the Tabernacle

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/07/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                               The First Sermon in the Tabernacle by Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,

               "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."Acts                5:42.

          I DO not know whether there are any persons here present who can contrive to put themselves into my           present position, and to feel my present feelings. If they can effect that, they will give me credit for           meaning what I say, when I declare that I feel totally unable to preach. And, indeed, I think I shall           scarcely attempt a sermon, but rather give a sort of declaration of the truths from which future sermons           shall be made. I will give you bullion rather than coin; the block from the quarry, and not the statue from the           chisel. It appears that the one subject upon which men preached in the apostolic age was Jesus Christ. The           tendency of man, if left alone, is continually to go further and further from God, and the Church of God itself is           no exception to the general rule. For the first few years, during and after the apostolic era, Christ Jesus was           preached, but gradually the Church departed from the central point, and began rather to preach ceremonials and           church offices than the person of their Lord. So has it been in these modern times: we also have fallen into the           same error, at least to a degree, and have gone from preaching Christ to preaching doctrines about Christ,           inferences which may be drawn from his life, or definitions which may be gathered from his discourses. We are           not content to stand like angels in the sun; our fancies disturb our rest and must needs fly on the sunbeams,           further and further from the glorious source of light. In the days of Paul it was not difficult at once, in one word,           to give the sum and substance of the current theology. It was Christ Jesus. Had you asked anyone of those           disciples what he believed, he would have replied, "I believe Christ." If you had requested him to show you his           Body of Divinity, he would have pointed upward, reminding you that divinity never had but one body, the           suffering and crucified human frame of Jesus Christ, who ascended up on high. To them, Christ was not a notion           refined, but unsubstantial; not an historical personage who had left only the savour of his character behind, but           whose person was dead; to them he was not a set of ideas, not a creed, nor an incarnation of an abstract theory;           but he was a person, one whom some of them had seen, whose hands they had handled, nay, one of whose flesh           they had all been made to eat, and of whose blood they had spiritually been made to drink. Christ was substance           to them, I fear he is too often but shadow to us. He was a reality to their minds; to usthough, perhaps, we           would scarcely allow it in so many wordsrather a myth than a man; rather a person who was, than he who was,           and is, and is to comethe Almighty.               I would propose (and O may the Lord grant us grace to carry out that proposition, from which no Christian           can dissent), I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and           as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed           to avow myself a Calvinist, although I claim to be rather a Calvinist according to Calvin, than after the modern           debased fashion. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. You have there (pointing to the baptistery)           substantial evidence that I am not ashamed of that ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ; but if I am asked to say           what is my creed, I think I must reply: "It is Jesus Christ." My venerable predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of           divinity admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever,           God helping me, is not his system of divinity or any other human treatise, but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and           substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious           personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.               This afternoon I will try to describe the subject, Christ Jesus; then, secondly, to speak for a little while upon           its comprehensiveness; then to enlarge upon sundry of its excellencies; and conclude by testing its power.               I. First, then, the SUBJECT.               They continued both to teach and preach Jesus Christ. To preach Jesus Christ aright we must preach him in           his infinite and indisputable Godhead. We may be attacked by philosophers, who will either make him no God at           all, or one constituted temporarily and, I must add, absurdly a God for a season. We shall have at once upon us           those who view Christ as a prophet, as a great man, as an admirable exemplar; we shall be assailed on all sides by           those who choose rather to draw their divinity from their own addled brains than from the simplicity of Holy Writ;           but what mattereth this? We must reiterate again and again the absolute and proper deity of Christ; for without this           we are in the position of those described by the prophet:"Their tacklings are loosed, they could not well           strengthen their mast" and soon will our enemies prevail against us, and the prey of a great spoil shall be taken.           Take away the divinity of Christ from the gospel, and you have nothing whatever left upon which the anxious soul           can rest. Remove the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God, and the Jachin and Boaz of           the temple are overturned. Without a divine Saviour, your gospel is a rope of sand; a bubble; a something less           substantial than a dream. If Christ were not God, he was the basest of impostors. He was either one of two things,           very God of very God, or else an arch-deceiver of the souls of men, for he made many of them believe he was           God, and brought upon himself the consequences of what they called blasphemy; so that if he were not God, he           was the greatest deceiver that ever lived. But God he is; and here, in this house, we must and will adore him. With           the multitude of his redeemed we will sing:

                                                  "Jesus is worthy to receive,                                                   Honour and power divine,                                              And blessings more, than we can give                                                    Be Lord for ever thine."

              To preach Christ, however, we must also preach his true humanity. We must never make him to be less           manlike because he was perfectly divine. I love that hymn of Hart which begins

                                                "A man there wasa real man,                                                  Who once on Calvary died."

              "Real man!" I think we do not often realize that manhood of Christ; we do not see that he was bone of our           bone, and flesh of our flesh; feeling, thinking, acting, suffering, doing, just like ourselvesone of our fellows, and           only above us because he is "exalted with the oil of gladness above his fellows." We must have a human Christ,           and we must have one of real flesh and blood too; not of shadows or filmy fancies. We must have one to whom           we can talk, one with whom we can walk, one

                                               "Who in his measure feels afresh                                                  What every member bears;"

          who is so intimately connected with us in ties of blood, that he is as with us one, the head of the family, first-born           among many brethren. I am never more glad than when I am preaching a personal Christ. A doctrinal Christ, a           practical Christ, or an experimental Christ, as some good men make him to be according to the temper of their           minds, I do not feel to be sufficient for the people of God. We want a personal Christ. This has been a power to           the Romish churcha power which they have used for ill, but always a power; they have had a personal Christ,           but then it has either been a baby Christ in his mother's arms, or else a dead Christ upon the cross. They never           reached the force of a real full-grown Christ, one who not only lived and suffered, but who died and rose again,           and sits at the right hand of God, the Head of the Church, the one ruler of men. Oh! we must bring out more and           more clearly each day the real personality of the Redeemer in his complex person. Whatever we fail to preach, we           must preach him. If we are wrong in many points, if we be but right here, this will save our ministry from the           flames; but if we be wrong here, however orthodox we may pretend to be, we cannot be right in the rest unless we           think rightly of him.               But, further, to preach Christ Jesus, it is absolutely necessary we should preach him as the only mediator           between God and man. Admitting the efficacy of the intercession of living saints for sinners, never for a moment           denying that every man is bound to make supplication for all ranks and conditions of men, yet must we have it           that the only mediator in the heavens, and the only direct intercessor with God, is the man Christ Jesus. Nay, we           must not be content with making him the only mediator; we must set aside all approach to God in any way           whatever, except by him. We must not only have him for the priest, but we must have him for the altar, the           victim, and the offerer too. We must learn in full the meaning of that precious text"Christ is all." We must not           see a part of the types here and a part there, but all gathered up in him, the one door of heaven, the one crimson           way by which our souls approach to God. We must not allow that approaches can be made in human strength, by           human learning, or by human effort; but in him and through him, and by him, and in dependence upon him, must           all be done between God and man. We have no wings, my brethren, with which to fly to heaven; our journey           thither must be on the rounds [rungs] of Jacob's ladder. We cannot approach God by anything we have, or know,           or do. Christ crucified, and he alone, must lift us up to God.               And more, we must preach Christ in the solitariness of his redemption work. We must not permit for a           moment the fair white linen of his righteousness to be stained by the patch-work of our filthy rags. We must not           submit that the precious blood of his veins should be diluted by any offering of ours co-acting therewith, for our           salvation. He hath, by one sacrifice, for ever put away sin. We shall never preach Christ unless we have a real           atonement. There be certain people nowadays who are making the atonement, first a sort of compromise, and the           next step is to make the atonement a display of what ought to have been, instead of the thing which should have           been. Then, next, there are some who make it to be a mere picture, an exhibition, a shadowa shadow, the           substance of which they have not seen. And the day will come, and there are sundry traces of it here and there, in           which in some churches the atonement shall be utterly denied, and yet men shall call themselves Christians, while           they have broken themselves against the corner-stone of the entire system. I have no kith nor kin, nor friendship,           nor Christian amity, with any man whatever who claims to be a Christian and yet denies the atonement. There is a           limit to the charity of Christians, and there can be none whatever entertained to the man who is dishonest enough           to occupy a Christian pulpit and to deny Christ. It is only in the Christian church that such a thing can be tolerated.           I appeal to you. Was there ever known a Buddhist acknowledged in the temple of Buddha who denied the basis           doctrine of the sect? Was there ever known a Mahomadan Imaum who was sanctioned in the mosque while he           cried down the Prophet? It remains for Christian churches only to have in their midst men who can bear the name           of Christian, who can even venture to be Christian teachers, while they slander the Deity of him who is the           Christian's God, and speak lightly of the efficacy of his blood who is the Christian's atonement. May this deadly           cancer be cut out root and branch; and whatever tearing of the flesh there may be, better cut it out with a jagged           knife than suffer to exist because no lancet is to be found to do it daintily. We must have, then, Christ in the           efficacy of his precious blood as the only Redeemer of the souls of men, and as the only mediator, who, without           assistance of ours, has brought us to God and made reconciliation through his blood.               Our ministry will scarcely be complete unless we preach Christ as the only lawgiver and Rabbi of the           Church. When you put it down as a canon of your faith that the church has right and power to decree rites and           ceremonies, you have robbed Christ at once of his proper position as the only teacher of the church. Or when you           claim the office of controlling other men's consciences by the decree of the church, or the vote of a synod, apart           from the authority of Christ, you have taken away from Christ that chair which he occupies in the Christian           church, as the teacher in the great Christian school, as the Rabbi, and the only Rabbi, of our faith. God forbid that           we should hold a single truth except on his authority. Let not our faith stand in the wisdom of man, but in the           power of God. You refer me to the writings of Doctor this and Doctor the other: what are these? The words of           Christ, these are truth, and these are wisdom. You bring me authority from the practice of a church three or four           centuries removed from the crucifixion as the proof of the existence of a certain ceremony and the righteousness           of certain ecclesiastical offices. What is your proof worth? If Christ hath not specially ordained it, and if he hath           not commanded his people to obey it, of what value is any rite whatever? We acknowledge Christ as ordaining all           things for his church, and presenting that church with a finished code of laws, from which any deviation is a sin,           and to which any addition is a high crime. Any church officer who is not ordained of Christ occupies an office           which he ought to resign. Any person who practices a ceremony for which he has not scriptural authority should           renounce it; and any man who preaches a doctrine for which he has not Christ as his certifier, should not demand           for it the faith of men.               But I fear there are times coming when the minister will not be true to his duty unless he goes further, and           preaches Christ as the sole King of the Church. There has been a disposition on the part of the state, especially           with regard to the Free Church of Scotland, to exercise power and judgement over church decrees. No king, no           queen that ever lived, or can live, has any authority whatever over the church of Christ. The church has none to           govern and rule over her but her Lord and her King. The church can suffer, but she cannot yield; you may break           her confessors alive upon the wheel, but she, in her uprightness, will neither bend nor bow. From the sentence of           our church there is no appeal whatever on earth. To the court of heaven a man may appeal if the sentence of the           church be wrong, but to Caesar never. Neither the best nor the worst of kings or queens may ever dare to put their           finger upon the prerogative of Christ as the head of the church. Up, church of God! If once there be any laws of           man passed to govern thee, up, dash them in pieces! Let us each catch up the war cry, and uplift the lion standard           of the tribe of Judah; let us challenge the kings of the earth and say, "Who shall rouse him up?" The church is           queen above all queens, and Christ her only King. None have jurisdiction or power in the church of Christ save           Jesus Christ himself. If any of our acts violate the civil laws, we are men and citizens, and we acknowledge the           right of a state to govern us as individuals. None of us wish to be less subjects of the realm because we are kings           and priests unto God. But as members of Christian churches we maintain that the excommunication of a Christian           church can never be reversed by the civil power, or by any state act, nor are its censures to be examined, much           less to be removed, mitigated, or even judged. We must have, as Christ's church, a full recognition of his imperial           rights, and the day will come when the state will not only tolerate us as a mere society, but admit that as we           profess to be the church of Christ, we have a right by that very fact to be self-governing, and never to be           interfered with in any sense whatever, so far as our ecclesiastical affairs are concerned.               Christ must be preached, then, and exalted in all these respects, or else we have not preached a full Christ; but           I go one step further. We have not yet mounted to the full height of our ministry unless we learn to preach Christ           as the King of kings. He has an absolute right to the entire dominion of this world. The Christian minister, as           ordained of God to preach, has a perfect right in God's name to preach upon any subject touching the Lord's           kingdom, and to rebuke and exhort even the greatest of men. Sometimes I have heard it said, when we have           canvassed the acts of an emperor or senator, "These are politics;" but Christ is King of politics as well as theology.           "Oh! but"say they"what have you to do with what the state does?" Why, just this: that Christ is the head of           all states, and while the state has no authority over the church, yet Christ himself is King of kings, and Lord of           lords. Oh, that the church would put her diadem upon her head, and take her right position! We are not slaves.           The church of God is not a grovelling corporation bound for ever to sit upon a dunghill; never queen was so fair as           she, and never robe so rich as the purple which she wears. Arise, O Church! arise, the earth is thine; claim it. Send           out thy missionary, not as a petitioner to creep at the feet of princes, but as an ambassador for God to make peace           between God and man. Send him out to claim the possession which belongs to thee, and which God has given to           thee to be thine for ever and ever, by a right which kings may dispute, but which one day every one of them shall           acknowledge.               The fact is, we must bring Christ himself back into camp once more. It is of little use having our true           Jerusalem swords, and the shields, and the banners, and the trumpets, and the drums; we want the King himself in           the midst of us. More and more of a personal Christ is the great lack of the time. I would not wish for less           doctrine, less experience, or less practice, but more of all this put into Christ, and Christ preached as the sum and           substance of it all.               II. But, secondly, I am now to speak, for a short time, upon the COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE           SUBJECT which the text announces.               It is an old and trite saying that the ministers of the gospel may be divided into three kindsthe doctrinal, the           experimental, and the practical. The saying is so often repeated that very few would contradict it. But it betrays at           once, if it be true, the absence and lack of a something essentially necessary for the church's success. Where is the           preacher of Christ out of these? I propound this, that if a man be found a preacher of Christ, he is doctrinal,           experimental, and practical. The doctrinal preacher generally has a limited range. He is useful, exceedingly useful;           God constitutes him a barrier against the innovations of the times: he preaches upon his subjects so frequently that           he is well versed in them, and becomes one of the armed men about the bed of Solomon. But suppose the           doctrinal preacher should have it all his own way, and there should be none others at all, what would be the           effect? See it in our Baptist churches about one hundred and fifty years ago. They were all sound and sound           asleep. Those doctrines had preached them into a lethargy, and had is not been for some few who started up and           proposed the missions for the heathen, and who found but little sympathy at first, the church would have been           utterly inactive. Now, I would not be hard with any, but there are some brethren still whose preaching might justly           be summed up as being doctrinal, nothing more than doctrinal, and what is the effect of their ministry? Bitterness.           They learn to contend not only earnestly for the faith, but savagely for it. Certainly we admire their earnestness,           and we thank God for their soundness, but we wish there were mingled with their doctrine a somewhat else which           might tone down their severity and make them seek rather the unity and fellowship of the saints than the division           and discord which they labour to create.               Again, I will refer you to the next class of preachers, the experimental. How delightful it is to sit under an           experimental preacher! Perhaps of all ministries this one is the most useful, he who preaches the doubts, the fears,           the joys, the ecstasies of the people of God. How often do the saints see the footsteps of the flock, and then they           find the shepherd under an experimental minister! But do you know the effect of an experimental minister, purely           so, I mean, when all else is put aside to make room for experience? There is one school of divines always           preaching the corruption of the human heart. This is their style; "Except thou be flayed alive by the law; except           thou art daily feeling the utter rottenness of thine heart; except than art a stranger to full assurance, and dost           always doubt and fear; except thou abidest on the dunghill and dost scrape thyself with a potsherd, thou art no           child of God." Who told you that? This has been the preaching of some experimental preachers, and the effect has           been just this. Men have come to think the deformities of God's people to be their beauty. They are like certain           courtiers of the reign of Richard III, who is said by history to have had a hump upon his back and his admirers           stuffed their backs that they might have a graceful hump too. And there be many who, because a minister           preaches of doubts and fears, feel they must doubt and fear too; and then that which is both uncomfortable to           themselves and dishonouring to God comes to be the very mark of God's people. This is the tendency of           experimental preaching, however judiciously managed, when ministers harp on that string and on that alone; the           tendency is either to preach the people into a soft and savoury state, in which there is not a bit of manliness or           might, or else into that dead and rotten state in which corruption outswells communion, and the savour is not the           perfume of the king's ointments, but the stench of a corrupt and filthy heart.               Take also the practical preacher; who would say a word against this good man? He stirs the people up,           excites the children of God to holy duties, promotes every excellent object, and is in his way an admirable           supplement to the two other kinds of ministers. But sit under she practical preacher; sit under him all the year           round and listen to his people as they come out. There is one who says, "the same thing over againDo, do, do,           nothing but do." There is a poor sinner yonder just gone down the front steps. Follow him, "Oh," says he, "I came           here to find out what Christ could do for me, and I have only been told what I must do for myself" Now this it a           great evil, and persons who sit under such a ministry become lean, starvelling things. I would that practical           preachers would listen to our farmers, who always say it is better to put the whip in the manger than upon the           horse's back. Let them feed the people with food convenient for them, and they will be practical enough; but all           practice and no promise, all exhortation and no sound doctrine, will never make the man of God perfect and           zealous for good works.               But what am I driving at in bringing up these three sorts of ministers? Why just this: to show you that there is           one minister who can preach all this, without the dangers of any one of the others, but with the excellencies of the           whole. And who is he? Why, any man in the world who preaches Christ. If he preaches Christ's person he must           preach doctrine. If I preach Christ I must preach him as the covenant head of his people, and how far am I then           from the doctrine of election? If I preach Christ I must preach the efficacy of his blood, and how far am I           removed then from the great doctrine of an effectual atonement? If I preach Christ I must preach the love of his           heart, and how can I deny the final perseverance of the saints? If I preach the Lord Jesus as the great Head and           King, how far am I removed from divine Sovereignty? Must I not, if I preach Christ personally, preach his           doctrines? I believe they are nothing but the natural outgrowth of that great root thought, or root substance rather,           the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who will preach Christ fully will never be lax in doctrine. And what better           experience can you preach than in preaching Christ? Would you preach the sufferings of the saints, preach his           agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion; for the true sufferings of the saints are in fellowship with him. If           you would preach their joys, preach his resurrection, his ascension, and his advent; you are never far from the           joys of the saints when you are near to the joys of Christ; for did not he say, "My joy shall be in them that their           joy may be full"? And what better practice can be preached than preaching Christ? Of every virtue he is the           pattern; of the perfection of human character he is the very mirror; of everything that is holy and of good report,           he is the abiding incarnation. He cannot fail, then, to be a good doctrinal, experimental, practical preacher, who           preaches Christ. Did you ever know a congregation grow less spiritual by a minister preaching Christ? Did you           ever know them get full of doubts and fears by preaching Christ? Did you ever hear of their getting lax in           sentiment by his preaching Christ? Did you ever hear a whisper that men became unholy in their lives because           they heard too much about Christ? I think that all the excellencies of all ministers may be gathered up into the           teaching of the man who can preach Christ every day in the week, while there will not be any of the evils           connected with the other forms of preaching.               III. I shall now pass onto notice some of the surpassing excellencies of the subject               First, he will always have a blessed variety in his preaching. In Australia I have heard that the only change for           the backwoodsmen is to have one day damper [unleavened cake baked in wood ashes), tea, and bread; the next           day, bread, damper, and tea; and the next day, tea, bread, and damper. The only variety some ministers give, is           one Sunday to have depravity, election, and perseverance, and the next Sunday, election, perseverance, and           depravity. There are many strings to the harp of the gospel. There are some brethren who are so rightly charmed           with five of the strings, which certainly have very rich music in them, that they never meddle with any of the other           strings; the cobwebs hang on the rest, while these five are pretty well worn out. It is always pretty much the same           thing from the first of January to the last of December. Their organ has very few keys, and upon these they may           make a very blessed variety, but I think not a very extensive one. Any man who preaches Christ will ensure           variety in his preaching. He is all manner of precious perfume, myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. He is all sorts of           music, he is everything that is sweet to the ear; he is all manner of fruits; there is not one dainty in him but many.           This tree of life bears twelve manner of fruits. He is all manner of raiment; he is golden raiment for beauty, he is           the warm raiment for comfort, he is the stout raiment for harness in the day of battle. There are all things in           Christ, and he that hath Christ will have as great a variety as there is to be found in the scenery of the world where           are no two rocks alike, and no two rivers wind in precisely the same manner, and no two trees grow in precisely           the same form. Any other subject you may preach upon till your hearers feel satiety; but with Christ for a subject,           you may go on, and on, and on, till the sermon swells into the eternal song, and you begin to sing, "Unto him that           loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood."               There is yet another excellence about this subject, namely, that it suits all sorts of people. Are there rebels           present? Preach Christ; it will suit them. Are there pardoned sinners present? What is better, to melt their hearts           than the blood of the Lord Jesus. Are there doubting Christians? What can cheer them better than the name of           Christ. Are there strong believers? What is stronger meat than Jesus crucified? Are there learned, polite, intellectual           hearers? If they are not satisfied with Christ, they ought to be. Are there poor, ignorant, unlettered men? Jesus           Christ is just the thing to preach to thema naked Christ to their simple ears. Jesus Christ is a topic that will keep           in all climates. Land in New Zealand in the midst of uncivilised men, move o

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