November 17, 2010

The High Doctrine of Mr. Cranky

Category: Theology,Theology - Pastoral :: Permalink

Here’s how Charles Spurgeon describes the “religious grumbler” who listens carefully to sermons and loves to find things to complain about:

One tribe of these Ishmaelites is made up of high-flying ignoramuses who are very mighty about the doctrine of a sermon — here they are as decisive as sledgehammers and as certain as death. He who knows nothing is confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock, and even the sundial, must be set according to their watches. The slightest difference from their opinion proves a man to be rotten at heart.

Venture to argue with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style; ask them for reason, and you might as well go to a sand pit for sugar. They have bottled up the sea of truth, and carry it in their waistcoat pockets; they have measured heaven’s line of grace and have tied a knot in a string at the exact length of electing love; and as for the things which angels long to know, they have seen them all as boys see sights in a peep-show at our fair. Having sold their modesty and become wiser than their teachers, they ride a very high horse and jump over all five-barred gates of Bible texts which teach doctrines contrary to their notions.

When this mischief happens to good men, it is a great pity for such sweet pots of ointment to be spoiled by flies, yet one learns to bear with them just as I do with old Violet, for he is a rare horse, though he does set his ears back and throw out his legs at times. But there is a bragging lot about, who are all sting and no honey, all whip and no hay, all grunt and no bacon. These do nothing but rail from morning to night at all who cannot see through their spectacles.

If they would but mix up a handful of good living with all their bushels of bounce, it would be more bear able; but no, they don’t care for such legality. Men so sound as they are can’t be expected to be good at anything else; they are the heavenly watchdogs to guard the house of the Lord from those thieves and robbers who don’t preach sound doctrine, and if they do worry the sheep, or steal a rabbit or two by the sly, who would have the heart to blame them? The Lord’s dear people, as they call themselves, have enough to do to keep their doctrine sound; and if their manners are cracked, who can wonder! No man can see to everything at once.

These are the moles that want catching in many of our pastures, not for their own sakes, for there is not a sweet mouthful in them, but for the sake of the meadows which they spoil. I would not find half a fault with their doctrine if it were not for their spirit, but vinegar is sweet next to it, and crabs are figs in comparison. It must be very high doctrine that is too high for me, but I must have high experience and high practice with it, or it turns my stomach. — Charles Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Talk, 21-22.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:54 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “The High Doctrine of Mr. Cranky”

  1. Pete de Jong Says:

    I guess that just proves that Spurgeon was just a man after all, and no inspired saint. Turns out he was just like any other preacher that couldn’t handle critisism. Oh well, most of his sermons were pretty good.

    Little man. Fallen man…

  2. John Says:

    Pete, I’m not sure what your disagreement with Spurgeon here is. I happen to agree with him.

    Spurgeon is not saying that it’s always and necessarily wrong to disagree with a minister or to criticize his sermon.

    But he is blasting these guys:

    (1) The guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but who is sure that the minister must be wrong and who is bullheaded about it.

    (2) The guy who thinks that if the minister disagrees with him or doesn’t share his opinion, the minister must be a heretic or, in Spurgeon’s words, “rotten at heart.”

    (3) The guy who brings a criticism to the minister and then boils over as soon as the minister begins to argue with him.

    (4) The guy who has all of his Reformed doctrine down pat. He thinks he has a photograph of God’s decree. He knows who’s elect and who’s not and exactly where the limits were drawn in God’s “limited atonement.” He’s waiting for you to jump over his “five-bar gate” — surely a reference to the “five points of Calvinism” — and if you point out a biblical passage that doesn’t quite fit with his view of what the “five points of Calvinism” are, he can’t even look at that passage or give it the time of day.

    (5) The guy who focuses on sound doctrine but whose life is ungodly, including the sort of ungodliness that comes to expression in the rude, abrasive, divisive way they talk about doctrine.

    Maybe you haven’t met people like this. I have. And Spurgeon is right.

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