Spurgeon on Church Membership

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Joining the Church,” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1914), 295-298.

Below I have added the headings, some of the paragraph breaks, and updated some of the spelling. Everything else is a portion of Spurgeon’s sermon on joining the church and excuses people have for not doing so. One thing is clear, people have not changed much from Spurgeon’s day to our as far as the excuses they use to avoid church membership.

David E. Prince

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.

If I were to join the Church, I should feel it such a bond upon me

“Oh!” saith 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, 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.

If I were to join the Church, I am afraid that I should not be able to hold on

“Oh!” says another, “if I were to join the Church, I am afraid that I should 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 thy saints ought to be united together in church-fellowship, for churches were instituted by thine 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 thee: I will follow where thou leadest, and leave the rest to thee.”

I cannot join the Church; it is so imperfect

“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.

But I see so much that is wrong about Christians

“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 should 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.

But there are a rare lot of hypocrites in the Church

“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 to-morrow 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 just 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.

The church is so looked down upon

“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 honour 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.” Respectability! When a man puts on a coat on Sunday that he has paid for, when he worships God by night or by day, whether men see him or not: when he is an honest, straightforward man—I do not care how small his earnings are, he is a respectable man, and he need never bend his neck to the idea of Society or its artificial respectability.

These various kinds of humbug, for they are no other, keep many from joining the Christian Church, because they are afraid of being looked down upon by respectable people in Society. I read in a paper only yesterday that it would be no use to create Nonconformist peers, because in the next generation they would cease to be Nonconformist, and become respectable in their religion, and I am afraid it is true! It is outrageous that as soon as some persons rise in social position they renounce the Church to which they gave themselves when they gave themselves to the Lord.

Society and respectability—beggarly gods

The day will come when the poorest Christian will be exalted above the proudest peer that did not fear God: when God will take out of the hovels and cottages of England a peerage of an Imperial race, that will put to the blush all the kings and princes of the world. And these he will set above the seraphim, when others will be cast from his presence. I say to any of you, who will not join this Church, because doing so would lower your respectability—neither do I ask you to join it, nor does Christ either: If these be the gods ye worship—Society and respectability—go to your beggarly gods and worship them, but God will require it of your hands in the day of account. There is nothing better than the service of Christ.

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. The day is coming when the Lord will divide between those that love him and those that love him not, and every day is getting ready for that last division. This very night the division is being made; in the preaching of the gospel it is being carried out. Let each man take his stand, and ask himself the question: Are you with Christ or with Belial? Are you with God, with Christ, with the precious blood, or do you still rank with sinful pleasures and their delights? As you will have to answer for it when the skies are on a blaze, and the earth reels, and the judgment trump summons you before the great white throne, so answer for it now!

And ye brave spirits, who have loved your Savior, if you have never yet joined his army, come and enlist now. And ye loving spirits, who are tender, and who have shrunk back awhile, come forward now.

“Ye that are men now serve him,

Against unnumbered foes

Your courage rise with danger,

And strength to strength oppose.”

Today, stand up for Jesus: today be willing to be the off-scouring of all things for his name’s sake: and then, when he cometh in the glory, yours shall be the reward, a reward that shall far outweigh any losses that you can sustain today.



By |May 1st, 2018|Categories: Blog, Featured|

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today