Spurgeon on Socialism

by Joel McDurmon


“I would not have you exchange the gold of individual Christianity for the base metal of Christian Socialism.” – Charles Spurgeon

At a moment in which we must fight the advancement of socialism into the field of healthcare, among other places, I think many may find the following excerpts from Charles Spurgeon helpful. Additionally, since so many American Christians—especially of the fundamentalist and Baptistictraditions—seem to believe that the Gospel does not pertain to or does not address politics, economics, and social order, I hope our more pietistic brethren will find the direction of a stalwart Baptist such as Spurgeon instructive.

A chance encounter reading a Spurgeon sermon while I studied at Reformed Episcopal Seminary a few years back left his quotation against “Christian Socialism” welded in my memory. That encounter spurred this further study.

Spurgeon’s comments against socialism appear as early as 1878, but pick up more frequency after 1886. They virtually disappear from his sermons after 1893. There is a good explanation for this time period: a group known as the Fabian Society organized in 1884 for the purpose of advancing the ideas of Karl Marx and establishing England as a socialist state. In 1889, the well-funded group circulated The Fabian Essays written by sympathetic celebrities (and members) such as George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, the theosophist Annie Besant, and on-and-off, H. G. Wells; the essays gained wide popularity. Liberal churchmen (called “broad” at the time) baptized the Fabian ideas and called it the “social gospel,” or “Christian Socialism.”

The goals of the socialist group built upon the atheistic system of Marx with a few bold twists. Aside from the standard socialist ideal of the abolition of private property, and government monopoly over education, credit, and business, some of their goals were:

1. Government control over all insurance (universal health care).

2. Elimination of the significance of the family.

3. Elimination of the significance of religion.

4. Justified use of force if necessary to attain socialistic goals

5. A universal system of pensions (universal retirement).[1]

Spurgeon sniffed out the godless, anti-biblical scheme and preached against it from his pulpit. He continued this as long, apparently, as the pamphlets created a stir among his congregation or society in general. What follows below are relevant excerpts from his sermons during the period.

Did I hear a whisper that ministers are nowadays very broad, and have given up the old gospel. I know it, and I am not surprised: the builders are the first to reject the chosen stone. Christ owes little to preachers, and some of his worst enemies are found in their ranks. Unconverted men are in too many pulpits, and are seeking out many inventions to set aside the pure gospel which exalts Christ Jesus. Let them alone, the ditch is gaping for these blind guides. Our Lord can do without them. He owes his victories to himself, and to himself alone; and, therefore, let the faith of his people rest in peace, for if they will have patience they shall see greater things than they have yet beheld. Our text saith that it is not only the Lord’s doing and marvellous, but it ismarvellous “in our eyes,” which it could not be if we did not see it. We shall see and we shall marvel. Some of us may have passed away, but you who are younger may live to see modern thought obtain supremacy over human minds: German rationalism which has ripened intoSocialism may yet pollute the mass of mankind and lead them to overturn the foundations of society. Then “advanced principles” will hold carnival, and free thought will riot with the vice and blood which were years ago the insignia of “the age of reason.” I say not that it will be so, but I should not wonder if it came to pass, for deadly principles are abroad and certain ministers are spreading them. If it ever should be so, do not, o believers, for a single moment despair, but rest certain that the Lord is about to do a marvellous thing in the earth, and that he will lift up once again the stone which the builders have again refused, and cause it to become more than ever the headstone of the corner. Never dream of defeat. Be calm amid all the din of controversy, for the hand which holds the gospel must win the victory. This is the Lord’s doing and we shall see it.[2]

In the early days of Christianity, multitudes of Christians were tormented to death because of their faith in Jesus. There was no excuse for it, for they had done no harm to the State. Christianity does not come into a nation to break up its arrangements, or to break down its fabric. All that is good in human society it preserves and establishes. It snaps no ties of the family; it dislocates no bonds of the body politic. There are theories of socialism and the like which lead to anarchy and riot; but it is not so with the mild and gentle teaching of Jesus Christ, whose every word is love and patience.[3]

I fear lest in any of you there should be even the least measure of despising the one lost sheep, because of the large and philosophical methods which are now so loudly cried up. I would not have you exchange the gold of individual Christianity for the base metal of Christian Socialism. If the wanderers are to be brought in, in vast numbers, as I pray they may be, yet must it be accomplished by the bringing of them in one by one. To attempt national regeneration without personal regeneration is to dream of erecting a house without separate bricks. In the vain attempt to work in the gross, we may miss the practical result which would have followed working in detail. Let us settle it in our minds that we cannot do better than obey the example of our Lord Jesus, given us in the text, and go after the one sheep which has gone astray.[4]

For ninny a year, by the grand old truths of the gospel, sinners were converted, and saints were edified, and the world was made to know that there is a God in Israel; but these are too antiquated for the present cultured race of superior beings. They are going to regenerate the world by Democratic Socialism, and set up a kingdom for Christ without the new birth or the pardon of sin. Truly, the Lord has not taken away the seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal, but they are, in most cases, hidden away, even as Obadiah hid the prophets in a cave.[5]

The practical point is, brothers and sisters, since we want to do good, let us preach up our Lord Jesus Christ as the sovereign balm for every sinner’s wound. If you want to be philanthropists, be Christians. If you would bless your fellow-men with the best of all blessings, convey to them the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do not believe that there is anything you can do for your children which will be more effectual than teaching them about Jesus. Do not think that anything in the workshop can soften the vulgarities, silence the blasphemies, and end the profanities of your fellowworkmen, like setting Jesus Christ before them.… Oh, let us keep on with the subject of Christ crucified! Whatever there is not in our shop window, let us always have Christ as the chief article of our heavenly commerce. Whatever there may lack of grace and beauty in our speech, and our outward appearance, may there be no lack of Jesus Christ, set forth among the sons of men; for “men shall be blessed in him,” and not without him. Great schemes of socialism have been tried and found wanting; let us look to regeneration by the Son of God, and we shall not look in vain. Nothing has come of newfangled preaching, from the first day till now; but never has the old faith of Jesus failed. Men have been blessed in Jesus, and they shall be blessed in him as long as the race shall exist.[6]

The next thing, dear friends, is that we must prove that the old faith produces much love of our fellow-men. You know that, nowadays, the watchword is, “the enthusiasm of humanity.” It is a curious thing that those churches that have such a wonderful “enthusiasm of humanity” speak of us as if we were always talking of God and forgetting men. Well, well; which of these new-fangled churches has an orphanage? It is very fine to talk about Christian socialism, and what you are going to do for the poor; but what have you done? Much of it is just chatter, chatter, and nothing else. But the godly, who feel that God is all, are, after all, those who care most for men; and those who believe most firmly that the unbelieving sinner will be lost are the men who are most anxious to have him saved.[7]

The god of modern thought exceedingly resembles the deities described in this Psalm [115:8]. Pantheism is wondrously akin to Polytheism, and yet differs very little from Atheism. The god manufactured by our great thinkers is a mere abstraction: he has no eternal purposes, he does not interpose on the behalf of his people, he cares but very little as to how much man sins, for he has given to the initiated “a larger hope” by which the most incorrigible are to be restored. He is what the last set of critics chooses to make him, he has said what they choose to say, and lie will do what they please to prescribe. Let this creed and its devotees alone, and they will work out their own refutation, for as now their god is fashioned like themselves, they will by degrees fashion themselves like their god; and when the principles of justice, law, and order shall have all been effectually sapped we may possibly witness in some form of socialism, similar to that which is so sadly spreading in Germany, a repetition of the evils which have in former ages befallen nations which have refused the living God, and set up gods of their own.[8]

Christians today simply must follow Spurgeon’s example in decrying the false paradise of socialism. This means addressing social and political issues, even when other Christians and certainly most secularists disagree (in fact, especially so!), but from a strictly biblical and not Marxist or socialist way. Socialism itself stands absolutely antithetical and opposed to Christianity as it for one denies the commandment against theft of private property (and that’s just the beginning). The original socialists themselves intended to supplant the faith, and hated it as a rival. Christian scholar and journalist David Aikman mentions an interesting anecdote in his book on atheism, The Delusion of Disbelief. He writes,

The strong linkage between politics and religion in the late nineteenth century was having a profound social impact, one that deeply troubled Marx and Engels. The following story illustrates just how it incensed them. While playing a well-known Victorian parlor game with Karl Marx’s daughter, Engels answered with a single word a “Confessions” question (“What is your favorite motto?” “What is your favorite color?” etc.) that asked whom he most hated in life. “Spurgeon,” was Engels’s curt, one-word answer, referring to the English Baptist… whose sermons in the 1850s to the 1880s drew as many as twenty thousand people, many of them working-class folk. Why did Engels hate him so? Because Spurgeon was diverting England’s urban working class away from atheist revolutionary socialism to Christian parliamentary reformism.[9]

We should take up Spurgeon’s example and start diverting fellow Christians, and others as well, away from the temptation to believe that government socialism will take care of us. It will not; and every nation so far that has installed so-called “universal health care” now sees regular shortages, rationing, waiting lists, denials, delays, and diminished treatments because of it. Millions are oppressed and literally thousands have died waiting for healthcare simply because socialized medicine cannot respond in the way they need. It’s a death trap.

Along these lines we should consider the wisdom of Spurgeon, who in commenting on the proverb, “Knock at no door which thou wouldst not have opened,” explained,

Or it may open on a sudden, and thou wilt stand confounded. When persons speak for a cause which they do not really believe in, they may have to pay dearly for their words. Some who defend Socialism may soon have too much of it.[10]

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