The following quote is from Charles Spurgeon. For more information on what “Staying on the Line” is all about, please visit the Charles Simeon Trust.
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Never strain passages when you are expounding. Be thoroughly honest with the word: even if the Scriptures were the writing of mere men, conscience would demand fairness of you; but when it is the Lord’s own word, be careful not to pervert it even in the smallest degree. Let it be said of you, as I have heard a venerable hearer of Mr. Simeon say of him, “Sir, he was very Calvinistic when the text was so, and people thought him an Arminian when the text was that way, for he always stuck to its plain sense.” A very sound neighbor of ours once said, by way of depreciating the grand old reformer, “John Calvin was not half a Calvinist,” and the remark was correct as to his expositions, for in them, as we have seen, he always gave his Lord’s mind and not his own. In the church of St. Zeno, in Verona, I saw ancient frescoes which had been plastered over, and then covered with other designs; I fear many do this with Scripture, daubing the text with their own glosses, and laying on their own conceits. There are enough of these plasterers abroad, let us leave the evil trade to them and follow an honest calling. Remember Cowper’s lines—
“A critic on the sacred text should be
Candid and learn’d, dispassionate and free;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From fancy’s influence and intemperate zeal;
For of all arts sagacious dupes invent,
To cheat themselves and gain the world’s assent,
The worst is—Scripture warped from its intent.”
C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle., vol. 4 (New York: Sheldon & Company, 1876), 55–56.
William G. T. Shedd
“The Christian minister is not obligated to run out Christianity into all its connections and relations. Neither he, nor the Church, is bound to watch over all the special interests of social, literary, political, and economical life. Something should be left to other men, and other professions; and something should be left to the providence of God. The Christian preacher can do more towards promoting the earthly and temporal interests of mankind, by indirection, than by direct efforts. That minister who limits himself, in his Sabbath discourses, to the exhibition and enforcement of the doctrines of sin and grace, and whose preaching results in the actual conversion of human beings, contributes far more, in the long run, to the progress of society, literature, art, science, and civilization, than he does, who, neglecting these themes of sin and grace, makes a direct effort from the pulpit to “elevate society.” In respect to the secular and temporal benefits of the Christian religion, it is eminently true, that he that finds his life shall lose it. When the ministry sink all other themes in the one theme of the Cross, they are rewarded in a twofold manner: they see the soul of man born into the kingdom of God; and then, as an inevitable consequence, with which they had little to do directly but which is taken care of by the providence of God, and the laws by which He administers his government in the earth, they also see arts, sciences, trade, commerce, and political prosperity, flowing in of themselves. They are willing to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and find all these minor things,—infinitely minor things, when compared with the eternal destiny of man,—added to them by the operation, not of the pulpit, or of the ministry, but of Divine laws and Divine providence. But, whenever the ministry sink the Cross, wholly or in part, in semi-religious themes, they are rewarded, with nothing. They see, as the fruit of their labors, neither the conversion of the individual nor the prosperity of society. That unearthly sermonizing of Baxter, and Howe, so abstracted from all the temporal and secular interests of man, so rigorously confined to human guilt and human redemption,—that preaching which, upon the face of it, does not seem even to recognize that man has any relations to this little ball of earth; which takes him off the planet entirely, and contemplates him simply as a sinner in the presence of God,—that preaching, so destitute of all literary, scientific, economical, and political elements and allusions,—was, nevertheless, by indirection, one of the most fertile causes of the progress of England and America. Subtract it as one of the forces of English history, and the career of the Anglo-Saxon race would be like that of Italy and Spain.”
William G. T. Shedd, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology (New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co., 1872), 247–249.