I think I will let these words from Spurgeon stand without further comment from me. I’m probably already in enough hot water just for repeating them.
Why, there are those who pretend to save souls by curious tricks, intricate manoeuvres, and dexterous posture-making! A basin of water, half-a-dozen drops, certain syllables—heigh, presto—the infant is made a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven! This aqueous regeneration surpasses my belief; it is a trick which I do not understand: the initiated only can perform the beautiful piece of magic, which excels anything ever attempted by the Wizard of the North. There is a way, too, of winning souls by laying hands upon heads, only the elbows of the aforesaid hands must be encased in lawn, and then the machinery acts, and there is grace conferred by blessed fingers! I must confess I do not understand the occult science, but at this I need not wonder, for the profession of saving souls by such juggling can only be carried out by certain favoured persons who have received apostolical succession direct from Judas Iscariot. This episcopal confirmation, when men pretend that it confers grace, is an infamous piece of juggling. The whole thing is an abomination. Only to think that, in this nineteenth century, there should be men who preach lip salvation by sacraments, and salvation by themselves, forsooth!
Why, sirs, it is surely too late in the day to come to us with this drivel! Priestcraft, let us hope, is an anachronism, and the sacramental theory out of date. These things might have done for those who could not read, and in the days when books were scarce; but ever since the day when the glorious Luther was helped by God to proclaim with thunder-claps the emancipating truth, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” there has been too much light for these Popish owls. Let them go back to their ivy-mantled towers, and complain to the moon of those who spoiled of old their kingdom of darkness. Let shaven crowns go to Bedlam, and scarlet hats to the scarlet harlot, but let not Englishmen yield them respect. Modern Tractarianism is a bastard Popery, too mean, too shifty, too double-dealing to delude men of honest minds.
If we win souls, it shall be by other arts than Jesuits and shavelings can teach us. Trust not in any man who pretends to priesthood. Priests are liars by trade, and deceivers by profession. We cannot save souls in their theatrical way, and do not want to do so, for we know that with such jugglery as that, Satan will hold the best hand, and laugh at priests as he turns the cards against them at the last.
Perhaps, predictably, I have received a mini avalanche of e-mails, and even at least one blog post concerning the quote above. I should have appreciated that I couldn’t really get away with quoting these paragraphs from Spurgeon without commenting on them myself. So, to answer my correspondents, I thought I’d better add this update just to make it clear.
- I listed this quote, as much as anything, to show that Spurgeon was capable of some pretty direct and robust language. You can see why some people compare him to Mark Driscoll. We could debate about whether his language is appropriate. I believe that on critical issues like this, it is time to shoot the wolves.
- OK, I admit the title was a bit provocative. In the quote Spurgeon does seem to be addressing those who believe that baptism regenerates the infant. I should not have implied that there is no distinction between that more Catholic view and the view of those who christen babies because of a covenantal theology. Please accept my apologies to Presbyterian and Anglican readers who I may have offended.
- In the UK, however, I must say that there are still a number of people who were christened as babies and who believe that, as a result, they are Christians. As such, I do feel strongly about the issue which Spurgeon addressed.