by C.H. Spurgeon, from his sermon, The Plea of Faith
The errors of this present age have sprung from a non-reading of the Bible. Do you think, my brethren, that if we all read the Scriptures with judgment, and desired to know them rightly, there would be so many sects as there are? Heresies and schisms have sprung from this; one man has gone a little astray upon a point; another man, without referring to Scripture, has endorsed all he has said; another one has added something else to it; and then another one, being cunning, full of subtlety of the devil, has twisted passages of Scripture, and has woven them into a system, which has been fashioned in the first place by mistake, has accumulated and become more colossal by sundry other mistakes which naturally accrued to it, and at last has been perfected by the craft of designing heretics.
And, again: bigotry, ill feeling, and uncharitableness, must all be traced, in a large degree, to our want of reading the Bible. What is the reason why yon man hates me, because I preach what I believe to be right? If I do speak the truth am I responsible for his hating me? Not in the least degree. I am sometimes told by my people that I attack certain parties very hard. Well, I cannot help it; if they are not right, it is not my fault-if they come in my way, that I am compelled to run over them. Suppose two of you should be driving in the road to-morrow, and one of you should be on the right side of the road, and some accident should occur, you would say, “Sir, the other man ought to have pulled up, he must pay the damages, for he had no business there at all on his wrong side.” And it will be the same with us if we preach God’s truth; we must go straight on; if the greatest ill-feeling in the world rise up we have nothing to do with it. God’s truth will sometimes bring about warfare; Jesus Christ, you know, said himself that he came to put warfare between man and man; to set the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; and that a man’s foes should be those of his own household. But if there be ill-feeling, if there be clamouring of sects, to whom is it due? Who is responsible for it? Why, the man who makes the new sects, not the man who abides fast and firm by the old one. If I am safely moored by a good strong anchor of fundamental truth, and some other shall strike my vessel and sink himself, I will not pay the damages. I stand firm: if others chose to go away from the truth, to cut their cables and slip their moorings; then let them. God grant that we may not do the same. Hold the truth, my friends, and hold it as the easiest method of sweeping away heresies and false doctrines. But now-a-days, you know, you are told, “Oh, it does not matter what you believe; doctrines are nothing;” and they have tried lately to make a very happy family of us, like the happy family near Waterloo Bridge, where all kinds of creatures are shut up together; but they are only kept in order by a lath which the man, when we turn our heads, applies between the bars of the cage. Just so with denominations; they want to amalgamate us all. We differ in various doctrines, and therefore some of us must be wrong, if we hold doctrines which are directly hostile to each other. But we are told, “It does not signify; doubtless, you are all right.” Now, I cannot see that. If I say one thing, and another man says another, how, by all that is holy, can both speak the truth? Shall black and white be the same colour? Shall falsehood and truth be the same? When they shall be, and fire shall sleep in the same cradle with the waves of the ocean, then shall we agree to amalgamate ourselves with those who deny our doctrines, or speak evil of what we believe to be the gospel. My brethren, no man has any right to absolve your judgment from allegiance to God; there is liberty of conscience between man and man, but there is none between God and man. No man has a right to believe what he likes; he is to believe what God tells him; and if he does not believe that though he is not responsible to man, or to any set of men, or to any government, yet mark you, he is responsible to God. I beseech you, therefore, if you would avoid heresies, and bring the church to a glorious union, read the Scriptures. Read not so much man’s comments, or man’s books, but read the Scriptures, and keep your faith on this,-“God has said it.” If you cannot make all God’s truths agree, yet remember God has not made two sets of truth opposite to each other; that were an impossibility which even God himself could not accomplish mighty though he be. My brethren, always stand by what God has said, and do not be turned aside from it by all the arguments that can be brought to bear against you. “Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Christ.”