On this day, January 31, 1892, Charles Spurgeon was taken to be with our Lord. In memoriam, American vision presents this important excerpt from his sermon, “The Scales of Judgment,” delivered June 12, 1859.
In this excerpt, Spurgeon exhibits a crucial tenet of Christian Reconstruction: historical sanctions. This is the belief that God judges nations now, today, in history, according to his standard. In large part due to this measure alone, Gary North argued that John Calvin was a theonomist. While I would quibble with that some, the doctrine of historical sanctions—blessings and curses applied according to God’s law—is a significant element of the larger scope of Christian Reconstruction. It leads to the call for national repentance, the demand for righteous laws and justice according to God’s standards, and thus that Christians ought to be engaged in social action for social change.
While Spurgeon would probably not have accepted any of our labels, and perhaps would have rejected aspects of our theology, his intense desire to follow the Bible where it leads drove him to express this element of Reconstructionism which is largely denied by the theology and practice of most evangelical and Reformed Baptist churches today: God judges nations in history, and we must therefore confront specific national sins, and preach national repentance and national righteousness, in hope for the whole world and all aspects of life to be redeemed. Spurgeon believed this. So do I.
There is a weighing time for kings and emperors, and all the monarchs of earth, albeit some of them have exalted themselves to a position in which they appear to be irresponsible to man. Though they escape the scales on earth, they must surely be tried at the bar of God. For nations there is a weighing time. National sins demand national punishments. The whole history of God’s dealings with mankind proves that though a nation may go on in wickedness it may multiply its oppressions; it may abound in bloodshed, tyranny, and war, but an hour of retribution draweth nigh. When it shall have filled up its measure of iniquity, then shall the angel of vengeance execute its doom. There cannot be an eternal damnation for nations as nations; the destruction of men at last will be that of individuals, and at the bar of God each man must be tried for himself. The punishment, therefore, of nations, is national. The guilt they incur must receive its awful recompense in this present time state.
It was so with the great nation of the Chaldeans. They had been guilty of blood. The monuments which still remain, and which we have lately explored, prove them to have been a cruel and ferocious race. A people of a strange language they were, and stranger than their language were their deeds. God allowed that nation for a certain period to grow and thrive, till it became God’s hammer, breaking in pieces many nations. It was the axe of the Almighty—his battle axe, and his weapon of war. By it he smote the loins of kings, yea, and slew mighty kings. But its time came at last. She sat alone as a queen, and said, “I shall see no sorrow,” nevertheless, the Lord brought her low, and made her grind in the dust of captivity, and gave her riches to the spoiler, and her pomp to the destroyer.
Even so must it be with every nation of the earth that is guilty of oppression. Humbling itself before God, when his wrath is kindled but a little, it may for a while arrest its fate; but if it still continue in its bold unrighteousness, it shall certainly reap the harvest of its own sowing.
Spurgeon did not stop at generalities. He dove directly into the most controversial social issues of his day and made specific applications:
So likewise shall it be with the nations that now abide on the face of the earth. There is no God in heaven if the iniquity of slavery go unpunished. There is no God existing in heaven above if the cry of the negro do not bring down a red hail of blood upon the nation that still holds the black man in slavery. Nor is there a God anywhere if the nations of Europe that still oppress each other and are oppressed by tyrants do not find out to their dismay that he executes vengeance. The Lord God is the avenger of every one that is oppressed, and the executor of every one that oppresseth.
I see, this very moment, glancing at the page of the world’s present history, a marvellous proof that God will take vengeance. Piedmont, the land which is at this time sodden with blood, is only at this hour suffering the vengeance that has long been hanging over it. The snows of its mountains were once red with the blood of martyrs. It is not yet forgotten how there the children of God were hunted like partridges on the mountains; and so has God directed it, that the nations that performed that frightful act upon his children, shall there meet, rend, and devour each other in the slaughter, and both sides shall be almost equal, and nothing shall be seen but that God will punish those who lift their hands against his anointed.
There has never been a deed of persecution—there has never been a drop of martyr’s blood shed yet, but shall be avenged, and every land guilty of it shall yet drink the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. And especially certain is there gathering an awful storm over the head of the empire of Rome—that spiritual despotism of the firstborn of hell. All the clouds of God’s vengeance are gathering into one—the firmament is big with thunder, God’s right arm is lifted up even now, and ere long the nations of the earth shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. They that have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication, shall soon also have to drink with her of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; and they shall reel to and fro, their loins shall be loose, their knees shall smite together, when God fulfils the old handwriting on the rock of Patmos.
He then brings this home to us, as it is the duty of every individual Christian. This means changes in personal behavior in a effort to separate ourselves as much as possible from the sins of our society, but also to call out and work to change all aspects of injustice among the halls of power and authority as well, knowing that God sits over all and judges, now.
Our duty at this time is to take heed to ourselves as a nation that we purge ourselves of our great sins. Although God has given so much light, and kindly favored us with the dew of his Spirit, yet England is a hoary sinner. Favourably with mercy does God regard her, so much the rather then let each Christian try to shake off the sins of his nation from his own skirt, and let each one to the utmost of his ability labor and strive to purify this land of blood and oppression, and of everything evil that still clingeth to her. So may God preserve this land; and may its monarchy endure till he shall come, before whom both kings and princes shall lose their power right cheerfully even as the stars fade when the king of light—the sun—lifteth up his golden head.