Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Charles Spurgeon, Baptist peacemaker

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
British Baptist minister Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) is revered by many Baptists of conservative inclinations because of Spurgeon's staunch opposition to what he perceived to be liberal trends in the Baptist Union of Great Britain in the late nineteenth century. Fewer are aware of Spurgeon's equally staunch opposition to what he called "Periodical War Madness" in an essay of that title published in The Sword and Trowel in April 1878. Michael G. Long's anthology Christian Peace and Nonviolence: A Documentary History (Orbis Books, 2011), the subject of a previous blog post, introduced its inclusion of Spurgeon's essay: "Spurgeon was not a theological liberal, nor would anyone ever have mistaken him for a progressive biblical exegete. His biblical ethics, however, led him to denounce war, imperialism, and racial discrimination in no uncertain terms" (p. 130).

As the following excerpt from the essay as published in the Christian Peace and Nonviolence anthology shows, for Spurgeon Christian peacemaking must address not only the policies of nation-states but also the way individuals relate to one another in word and deed:

We should persuade all lovers of peace to labor perseveringly to spread the spirit of love and gentleness, which is indeed the spirit of Christ, and to give a practical bearing to what else may become mere theory. The fighting 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 fellowmen 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, labor, 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 colors, 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 holy and good....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 (p. 132).

1 comment:

  1. Steven, a contrast to this idea would be Spurgeon's address on the National Day of Humiliation and Prayer when there had been an uprising in India. His comments were in a much different context and an earluer phase of his ministry, but gives one a different view of Spurgeon's beliefs about war, and are most strident to say the least. Over 23,000 peple heard this address at The Crystal Palace in London.