As millions in this country celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as the issue of race and racism and racial relations is on the minds of so many; I offer this simple reflection. Below are excerpts from two sermons by the Prince of Preachers, C. H. Spurgeon. In one he shows that there is indeed a dividing line between races, what he calls a “vital difference”; a division which means these races “can never blend.” In the other, he offers the answer to every form of division among us.
If those sound like they contradict one another, understand that in the first, Spurgeon's identification of “races” may be different than you think. And in the second, well, just read for yourself...
From “The Master Key – Opening the Gate of Heaven” preached May 23, 1886
THE possession of a God, or the non-possession of a God, makes the greatest possible difference between man and man... There are many wise, careful, prudent men of the world who have no God and, truly, these in the highest sense, like the young lions, lack and suffer hunger, for their highest nature is left to famish. Those who wait upon the Lord are often very simple and devoid of ability and policy, but they shall not lack any good thing—their highest nature is well supplied from heavenly sources. This is the great difference between the two races which people the world—I mean the sons of men who say in their hearts, “No God,” and the sons of God, the twice-born, who have received new life and, therefore, with heart and flesh cry out for God, even the living God! The child of this world enquires, “Where shall I flee from His Presence?” The child of Light cries, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You.” There are thus two races of men who can never blend, either in this life or in that which is to come. Deep in their innermost nature lies a vital difference—they are of two distinct seeds. My dear Hearers, you can divide yourselves without difficulty by this rule—Have you a God, or have you none? If you have no God, what have you? If you have no God, what good have you to expect? What, indeed, can be good to you? If you have no God, how can you face the past, the present, or the future?
From “The Christian – A Debtor” preached August 10, 1856,
“Therefore, Brethren, we are debtors.” -Romans 8:12.
OBSERVE the title whereby he addressed the Church—“Brethren.” It was the Gospel which taught Paul how to say brother. If he had not been a Christian, his Jewish dignity would never have condescended to call a Roman, “Brother”—for a Jew sneered at the Gentile—and called him, “dog.” But now in the heart of this “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” there is the holy recognition of Christian fraternity without reserve or hypocrisy! The Gospel softened the heart of Paul and made him forget all national animosities. Otherwise, one of the down-trodden race would not have called his oppressor, “brother.” The Roman had his iron foot on the Jew, yet Paul addresses those who subjugated his race, “Brethren.” We repeat, a third time, it was the Gospel which implanted in the soul of Paul the feeling of brotherhood and removed every wall of partition which divided him from any of the Lord’s Elect.
“So then,” he said, “we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God. He proclaimed the Doctrine of the “one blood” and gloried in the fact of “one family” in Christ. He felt within him affinities with all the blood-bought race and loved them all.
He had not seen many of those whom he addressed—yet they were known to him in the Spirit as partakers of one glorious and blessed hope. And, therefore, he called them, “Brethren.” My Friends, there is a cementing power in the Grace of God which can scarcely be overestimated! It resets the dislocated bones of society, rivets the bonds of friendship and welds the broken metal of manhood into one united mass. It makes all, Brothers and Sisters, who feel its power. Grace links mankind in a common brotherhood. Grace makes the great man give his hand to the poor and confess a heavenly relationship. Grace compels the intellectual, the learned, the polite—to stoop from their dignity to take hold of the ignorant and unlettered—and call them friends! Grace weaves the threads of our separate individualities into one undivided unity.
Let the Gospel be really felt in the mind and it will toll the death-knell of selfishness, it will bring down the proud from their elevated solitude and it will restore the down-trodden to the rights of our common manhood! We need only the Gospel thoroughly preached to bring about “liberty, equality and fraternity,” in the highest and best sense of these words! Not the “liberty, equality and fraternity” which the democrat seeks for, which is frequently another name for his own superiority, but that which is true and real—that which will make us all free in the Spirit, make us all equal in the Person of Christ Jesus and give us all this fraternity of Brothers and Sisters, seeing that we are all one with our Lord in the common bond of Gospel relationship! Let the Truths of Christianity work out their perfect work—and pride, bitterness, wrath, envy and malice must see their graves. This and this, alone, can restore the peace of divided families and unite disputing relatives.
Only let the Gospel be preached and there shall be an end of war—let it thoroughly pervade all ranks of society and saturate the mind of nations—and there shall be no more lifting of the spears. They shall be used for pruning hooks! No bathing of swords in blood, for they shall be turned in to the peaceful plowshares of the soil. We shall then have no hosts encountering hosts. We shall have no millions slain for widows to deplore—but every man shall meet every other man and call him, “Brother.” And men of every kindred and of every tribe shall see in the face of every man a relative allied to them by ties of blood. I am sure I feel, myself, the force of this word, “Brother,” and, “Sister,” with regard to many of you. If you are partakers of that glorious hope. If you are believers in our glorious Redeemer. If you have put your trust under the shadow of His wings—my hand and my heart with it—there is that word, “Brothers and Sisters,” for you!
There you have it. Only two races of men. Those of God. Those without God. And the answer for every other divide we have in this world is the Gospel. In Christ, we are all one; all brothers; regardless of race, face or place. Just some thoughts to ponder on this day.