26 December 2005

Glory, Peace, Goodwill

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from a sermon titled "The First Christmas Carol," originally preached Sunday Morning, December 20, 1857, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

A Thought to Last the Whole Week

Merry Christmas from SpurgeonThe angels sang something which men could understand—something which men ought to understand—something which will make men much better if they will understand it. The angels were singing about Jesus who was born in the manger. We must look upon their song as being built upon this foundation. They sang of Christ, and the salvation which he came into this world to work out. And what they said of this salvation was this: they said, first, that it gave glory to God; secondly, that it gave peace to man; and, thirdly, that it was a token of God's good will towards the human race.

1. First, they said that this salvation gave glory to God. They had been present on many august occasions, and they had joined in many a solemn chorus to the praise of their Almighty Creator. They were present at the creation: "The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." They had seen many a planet fashioned between the palms of Jehovah, and wheeled by his eternal hands through the infinitude of space. They had sung solemn songs over many a world which the Great One had created. We doubt not, they had often chanted "Blessing and honour, and glory, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might, be unto him that sitteth on the throne," manifesting himself in the work of creation.

I doubt not, too, that their songs had gathered force through ages. As when first created, their first breath was song, so when they saw God create new worlds then their song received another note; they rose a little higher in the gamut of adoration. But this time, when they saw God stoop from his throne, and become a babe, hanging upon a woman's breast, they lifted their notes higher still; and reaching to the uttermost stretch of angelic music, they gained the highest notes of the divine scale of praise, and they sung, "Glory to God in the highest," for higher in goodness they felt God could not go.

Thus their highest praise they gave to him in the highest act of his godhead. If it be true that there is a hierarchy of angels, rising tier upon tier in magnificence and dignity—if the apostle teaches us that there be "angels, and principalities, and powers, and thrones, and dominions," amongst these blest inhabitants of the upper world—I can suppose that when the intelligence was first communicated to those angels that are to be found upon the outskirts of the heavenly world, when they looked down from heaven and saw the newborn babe, they sent the news backward to the place whence the miracle first proceeded, singing

"Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your downward flight to earth,
Ye who sing creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth;
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King."


And as the message ran from rank to rank, at last the presence angels, those four cherubim that perpetually watch around the throne of God—those wheels with eyes—took up the strain, and, gathering up the song of all the inferior grades of angels, surmounted the divine pinnacle of harmony with their own solemn chant of adoration, upon which the entire host shouted, "The highest angels praise thee."—"Glory to God in the highest." Ay, there is no mortal that can ever dream how magnificent was that song. Then, note, if angels shouted before and when the world was made, their hallelujahs were more full, more strong, more magnificent, if not more hearty, when they saw Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary to be man's redeemer—"Glory to God in the highest."

What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angels' song? Why this, that salvation is God's highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles to the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it live to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead. Do not the fishes in the sea praise him? From the tiny minnow to the huge Leviathan, do not all creatures that swim the water bless and praise his name? Do not all created things extol him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that doth not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt him, when they write his name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? Do not the lightnings adore him when they flash his brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not thunders extol him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things exalt him, from the least even to the greatest?

But sing, sing, oh universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, thou canst not afford a song so sweet as the song of Incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High.

Pause, Christian, and consider this a minute. See how every attribute is here magnified. Lo! what wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Lo! what power, for where is power so great as when it concealeth power? What power, that Godhead should unrobe itself and become man! Behold, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man. Behold ye, what faithfulness! How many promises are this day kept? How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged? Tell me one attribute of God that is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance shall be the reason why you have not seen it so. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the name of God is written in the universe, it is here best read—in Him who was the Son of Man, and, yet, the Son of God.

But, let me say one word here before I go away from this point. We must learn from this, that if salvation glorifies God, glorifies him in the highest degree, and makes the highest creatures praise him, this one reflection may be added—then, that doctrine which glorifies man in salvation cannot be the gospel. For salvation glorifies God. The angels were no Arminians, they sang, "Glory to God in the highest." They believe in no doctrine which uncrowns Christ, and puts the crown upon the head of mortals. They believe in no system of faith which makes salvation dependent upon the creature, and, which really gives the creature the praise, for what is it less than for a man to save himself, if the whole dependence of salvation rests upon his own free will? No, my brethren; they may be some preachers, that delight to preach a doctrine that magnifies man; but in their gospel angels have no delight. The only glad tidings that made the angels sing, are those that put God first, God last, God midst, and God without end, in the salvation of his creatures, and put the crown wholly and alone upon the head of him that saves without a helper. "Glory to God in the highest," is the angels' song.

2. When they had sung this, they sang what they had never sung before. "Glory to God in the highest," was an old, old song; they had sung that from before the foundations of the world. But, now, they sang as it were a new song before the throne of God: for they added this stanza—"on earth, peace."

They did not sing that in the garden. There was peace there, but it seemed a thing of course, and scarce worth singing of. There was more than peace there; for there was glory to God there. But, now, man had fallen, and since the day when cherubim with fiery swords drove out the man, there had been no peace on earth, save in the breast of some believers, who had obtained peace from the living fountain of this incarnation of Christ. Wars had raged from the ends of the world; men had slaughtered one another, heaps on heaps. There had been wars within as well as wars without. Conscience had fought with man; Satan had tormented man with thoughts of sin. There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell.

But, now, when the newborn King made his appearance, the swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man's conscience and himself, man's conscience and his God. It was then, that day, the trumpet blew—"Sheathe the sword, oh man, sheathe the sword, oh conscience, for God is now at peace with man, and man at peace with God." Do you not feel my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus?

Go legalist, work for peace with toil and pain, and thou shalt never find it. Go, thou, that trustest in the law: go thou, to Sinai; look to the flames that Moses saw, and shrink, and tremble, and despair; for peace is nowhere to be found, but in him, of whom it is said, "This man shall be peace." And what a peace it is, beloved! It is peace like a river, and righteousness like the waves of the sea. It is the peace of God that passeth all understanding, which keeps our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. This sacred peace between the pardoned soul and God the pardoner; this marvelous at-one-ment between the sinner and his judge, this was it that the angels sung when they said, "peace on earth."

3. And, then, they wisely ended their song with a third note. They said, "Good will to man."

Philosophers have said that God has a good will toward man; but I never knew any man who derived much comfort from their philosophical assertion. Wise men have thought from what we have seen in creation that God had much good will toward man, or else his works would never have been so constructed for their comfort; but I never heard of any man who could risk his soul's peace upon such a faint hope as that.

But I have not only heard of thousands, but I know them, who are quite sure that God has a good will towards men; and if you ask their reason, they will give a full and perfect answer. They say, he has good will toward man for he gave his Son. No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and his subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives his only begotten and well beloved Son to die.

Though the first note is God-like, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most.

Some think of God as if he were a morose being who hated all mankind. Some picture him as if he were some abstract subsistence taking no interest in our affairs. Hark ye, God has "good will toward men." You know what good will means. Well, Swearer, you have cursed God; he has not fulfilled his curse on you; he has good will towards you, though you have no good will towards him. Infidel, you have sinned high and hard against the Most High; he has said no hard things against you, for he has good will towards men. Poor sinner, thou hast broken his laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of his mercy lest he should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted—God has good will towards men, so good a will that he has said, and said it with an oath too, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live;" so good a will moreover that he has even condescended to say, "Come, now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow."

And if you say, "Lord, how shall I know that thou hast this good will towards me?" he points to yonder manger, and says, "Sinner, if I had not a good will towards thee, would I have parted with my Son? if I had not good will towards the human race, would I have given up my Son to become one of that race that he might by so doing redeem them from death?" Ye that doubt the Master's love, look ye to that circle of angels; see their blaze of glory; hear their son, and let your doubts die away in that sweet music and be buried in a shroud of harmony.

He has good will to men; he is willing to pardon; he passes by iniquity, transgression, and sin. And mark thee, if Satan shall then add, "But though God hath good will, yet he cannot violate his justice, therefore his mercy may be ineffective, and you may die;" then listen to that first note of the song, "Glory to God in the highest," and reply to Satan and all his temptations, that when God shows good will to a penitent sinner, there is not only peace in the sinner's heart, but it brings glory to every attribute of God, and so he can be just, and yet justify the sinner, and glorify himself.

I do not pretend to say that I have opened all the instructions contained in these three sentences, but I may perhaps direct you into a train of thought that may serve you for the week. I hope that all through the week you will have a truly merry Christmas by feeling the power of these words, and knowing the unction of them. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men."
C. H. Spurgeon


Note: This will be a slow week on PyroManiac. I plan to enjoy the holidays with my family. So don't anticipate anything deep or profound. And don't be surprised if I post nothing at all until after the first of the year. Have a blessed year's end.

Phil's signature

21 comments:

Nate said...

These should have been your quotes for Spurgeon!

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmass: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).


When it can be proved that the observance of Christmass, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty. (from Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)

Scott Hill said...

Merry Christmas Phil, from all the dawgs at Fide-O. "Good luck" with the Ex Lex post.

Do you ever get the feeling that some people are sitting on top of a hill with a 50 Caliber keyboard with a 27 inch LCD scope just waiting for you to step out so they can pull the trigger. I never feel that way just wondering if you do?

BugBlaster said...

I got all the volumes of Spurgeon's sermons for Christmas. Feelin' good.

Nate said...

If Scotts comments were in regard to my quotes from Spurgeon...

I RARELY disagree with Phil. I am not out to rid the blogosphere of that with which I disagree....

it is just that the Reformed tradition (esp. Baptists and Presbyterians) have had opposing views on Christmas than that of other American churches.

Its part of The Fide-os...
sola scriptura!

Tim said...

I wonder if Spurgeon would roll over in his grave if he saw that picture. My goodness, I think he would definitely think you had crowned him pope. LOL.

Much better quotes Nate.

Phil Johnson said...

...but the problem with Nate's quotes is that they don't do full justice to Spurgeon's attitude toward Christmas. He hated the religious superstition that was attached to Christmas (hence his spelling of the word "Christmass" in Tim's quote.) He despised the maudlin sentiment the Victorian era saddled Christmas with.

But while Spurgeon objected to treating Christmas as a holy day, he did not inveigh against observing it as a holiday. In fact, he celebrated—and greatly enjoyed—Christmas. He personally distributed Christmas gifts to children in his orphanages. He always preached a Christmas sermon at the Tabernacle. In the very first of them, preached December 23, 1855, he explained his attitude toward Christmas more fully:

THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Saviour Jesus Christ was born on that day, and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least "sacred."

However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt labouring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us; particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those

"Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way."

The old Puritans made a parade of work on Christmas-day, just to show that they protested against the observance of it. But we believe they entered that protest so completely, that we are willing, as their descendants, to take the good accidentally conferred by the day, and leave its superstitions to the superstitious.

—C. H. Spurgeon

My feelings exactly.

mjbeasley said...

As Spurgeon said - "...we believe they entered that protest so completely, that we are willing, as their descendants, to take the good accidentally conferred by the day, and leave its superstitions to the superstitious."

The above quote reminds me of the following: In William Bradford's work "Of Plymouth Plantation" he gave an interesting account of some new arrivals at the colony who insisted on having Christmas day off, but only so that they could have an opportunity to play "stool-ball" rather than "keeping of it matter of devotion" to Christ. The governor rebuked them for their contradiction, because in his view if one wished to observe "Christmas" - then he should observe Christ. These struggles of the past are here with us today, and it all seems to boil down to a simple principle concerning the Christmas holiday - as believers we ought to harvest from Christmas that which glorifies Christ, and to leave the rest behind.

Although brother Phil - I do think that Pastor Spurgeon would at least tweak your nose for the hat you gave him...

MJB

Forgiven Sinner said...

Every day is Christmas to me!!!! Have a great new year everyone and dont drink too much egg nogg!!!!

PS
If we have so many people against calling it Christmas and dont have the belief for what the day was named after, then why do they like to be included in having the day off with pay? I think they should have to go to work!!!!!

Nate said...

If everyday were Xmas then their would be no ressurrection....just a helpless suckling.

Broken Messenger said...

Phil,

Should you post nothing else till year's end, this will still do nicely. Very good stuff here.

Brad

paul said...

Does anyone else see how full of Arminian heresy this sermon is? Too much to comment on now, but here’s some of what I saw.

Spurgeon stated,

"They sang of Christ, and the salvation which he came into this world to work out. And what they said of this salvation was this: they said, first, that it gave glory to God; secondly, that it gave peace to man; and, thirdly, that it was a token of God's good will towards the human race."

So this salvation that Christ was to establish was, according to Spurgeon, “a token of God’s good will towards the human race”. Now, who is Spurgeon referring to when he says that it was towards the, “human race”? Was it a particular group of people or the entire human race? Does Spurgeon ever define the vague terms that he uses? He certainly does! Let’s read more.

Spurgeon stated,

"Then, note, if angels shouted before and when the world was made, their hallelujahs were more full, more strong, more magnificent, if not more hearty, when they saw Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary to be man's redeemer..."

So Christ was to be, “man’s redeemer”? Was Spurgeon talking about all of mankind? Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus would save His people from their sins. Does Spurgeon mean that Christ would be the redeemer of those men, or of all men without exception? Let’s read some more.

Spurgeon stated,

“Hark ye, God has ‘good will toward men.’ You know what good will means. Well, Swearer, you have cursed God; he has not fulfilled his curse on you; he has good will towards you, though you have no good will towards him. Infidel, you have sinned high and hard against the Most High; he has said no hard things against you, for he has good will towards men. Poor sinner, thou hast broken his laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of his mercy lest he should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted—God has good will towards men…"

Ah, we’re getting closer, and how many thousands of people did Spurgeon preach this sermon to? Here we find him consoling the unbelievers by telling them to be comforted because God has, “good will towards men”, which would include every, “poor sinner”. And what must this poor sinner do? Well, if only he would, “come to the throne of his mercy”. However, if this is not enough, Spurgeon goes on to clarify precisely what he means by God’s good will towards men when he stated,

“And if you say, ‘Lord, how shall I know that thou hast this good will towards me?’ he points to yonder manger, and says, ‘Sinner, if I had not a good will towards thee, would I have parted with my Son? if I had not good will towards the human race, would I have given up my Son to become one of that race that he might by so doing redeem them from death?’ Ye that doubt the Master's love, look ye to that circle of angels; see their blaze of glory; hear their son, and let your doubts die away in that sweet music and be buried in a shroud of harmony.”

There it is! Spurgeon spurs the lost unbelieving sinner to go to this “christ” for salvation by saying that this “christ” died for him and not for him only, but for, “the human race”, or everyone without exception. According to Spurgeon, this “christ” became like one from the human race that he might redeem them. Arminian blasphemy! Spurgeon was an unregenerate Minster of Satan when he preached this sermon. He did not believe that it was the work of Christ alone that made the difference between salvation and damnation but the conditional work of the sinner to, “come to the throne of his mercy”, and to, “let your doubts die away in that sweet music” -- of Arminian heresy.

bethy31 said...

oh please don't blow me away here...I'm asking an honest question.. as I was reading Luke, I was struck by the fact that it says, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

I never really noticed the "on whom his favor rests" until last week...I know this is not the point of the post but interested if you guys have any thoughts...

Nate said...

The reason that you may not have seen "on whom his favor rests" may have been that in the Authorized Version it misreads "and goodwill towards men".

The NIV is better than the KJV HERE!

James said...

One of my goals in life is to have my site, www.james-dave.com , listed in the famous Annotated Bookmarks. C'mon, Phil, whaddayasay? :-)

bethy31 said...

I've always read the NIV so it isn't the translation that changed..my question is how do you interpret it....

Robert said...

Always enjoy reading Spurgeon. Happy a Happy New Year!

Phil Johnson said...

James: I'm currently on a 28.8 dial-up connection, and after 45 seconds, your splash page wasn't loaded yet, but it was playing "Shine, Jesus, Shine" at me already. My usual policy is not to link to sites that play music—especially "Shine, Jesus, Shine," and especially if they have slow-loading splash pages. I'm getting a cable modem installed next week, and I'll check your page again. My advice: lose the song and you'll have a better chance of getting linked.

For all: Note that "Maki" has sympathies with a cult that thinks Calvin was an Arminian heretic. I'd take his analysis of Spurgeon's "heresy" with a large salt tablet.

Steve said...

Phil: Take Maki's analysis with a large salt tablet?

Didn't you mean a 10-pound block of salt?

NeverAlone said...

Hello, I'm no theological heavyweight here, but it's been pointed out to me that the angels in fact weren't said in the Scriptures to sing. "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" In my mind still, it seems that they would be so exultant that it would seem like singing! Perhaps it was and Luke was just a bit calm about it...
I like to point out to kids especially, also, that you always see Mary on a donkey, but there's no mention of one. People will act shocked and look in the Scriptures to no avail for that creature there, to prove me wrong.
(Also, to the Catholics--no mention of a halo anywhere in the Bible.)
Most people know that there weren't necessarily just three wise men, huh. Anyway, a bit of nit-picky stuff but I think it's interesting.
Merry Christmas, belated! Or current, all year long...

Nate said...

I see the favor that God has is through his electing love. You can consult Calvin, Henry, and others at www.ccel.org

James said...

Hi Phil,
If you like, you can skip the splash page and link directly to the main page at http://www.james-dave.com/main.html . There is a button in the upper left frame where the music can be turned off. Another option would be the no frames version at http://www.james-dave.com/welcome.html . It doesn't have music at all. Would either of these be acceptable?