In his 1877 Inaugural Address to his Pastor’s College entitled, “The Evils of the Present Age, and How to Meet Them,” Charles Spurgeon admonishes his students to preach the gospel as the only true cure for societal evils such as of superstition, unbelief, isolation and drunkenness. Too often, by focusing on such evils ministers of the gospel are tempted to forget (if they ever knew) that it is the gospel and the gospel alone that can change the world for better. Spurgeon knew this well and was fanatical about teaching his students to think likewise. After asking how various evils that were prevalent in 19th century England were to be addressed, he answered,
I have only one remedy to prescribe, and that is that we do preach the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in all its length and breadth of doctrine, precept, spirit, example, and power. To give but one remedy for many diseases of the body is the part of an empiric, but it is not so in the affairs of the soul, for the gospel is so divinely compounded as to meet all the evils of humanity, however they may differ from one another. We have only to preach the living gospel, and the whole of it, to meet the whole of the evils of the times.
The point that Spurgeon understood so clearly is one that modern ministers and churches must reclaim. The gospel changes everything and Jesus Christ is the only hope that this world has. This is not a reductionist or simplistic approach to engaging culture, rather it is all-inclusive. Failure to see is arises from a failure to see how the gospel genuinely changes everything. Thus, pastors must fight every temptation to deviate from preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified. By recognizing the connection between the person and work of our Lord to every situation in life—both personal and corporate as well as spiritual and practical—the preacher must never be satisfied to give tips and techniques or steps and suggestions or even to commend godly standards. He must, in and through everything else, proclaim the fulness of Jesus Christ repeatedly, thoroughly, consistently and comprehensively.
In his 1877 Inaugural Address, Spurgeon spends a great deal of time emphasizing this point. I have excerpted below some of his remarks about never deviating from the preaching of Christ. I, along with my fellow pastors, would do well to take them to heart. Every Christian, likewise, should insist on and settle for nothing less. The welfare of the world depends on this far more than on any Presidential edict, political election, international coalition or economic policy.
I have to say, thirdly, that we must keep to the gospel more continually. I do not know any audience to whom there is less need to say this than to the present; but, still, let us “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” It is worth while stirring up that which is pure, the impure will be best let alone. Seeing that ye have these things, let me excite you to have them more abundantly. Often, very often, ought we to teach the simple rudiments of the gospel. It is astonishing, after all the preaching that there has been in England, how little the gospel is understood by the mass of men. They are still children, and have need to be told the A B C of the gospel of Christ. Keep most to those themes, brethren, which are most soul-saying—to those which are practically useful to the people. Keep close to the cross of Christ. Point continually to the atoning sacrifice and to the doctrine of justification by faith, which, when preached aright, are never preached without the divine approbation. Every truth is important, let it have its due place; but do not suffer any secondary truth to take you away from the first. Aristotle, in his wonderfully unnatural natural history, tells us that in Sicily the herbs in the woods and fields smell so exceeding sweetly that the dogs lose all scent of their prey, and so are unable to hunt. Let us beware of such herbs. There is to our minds—to mine, I know—a great fascination in poetry, in true science, in metaphysics, and the like; but you, I trust, dear brethren, will prove to be dogs of so keen a scent that the perfume of none of these shall prevent your following closely after the souls of men, for whom you hunt at your Master’s bidding. No doubt many are taken off from the main pursuit, and think, when they have taken to frivolous philosophisings, that they have outgrown their fellow Christians, but be not ye of their mind.
A woman was once very busy in fetching out of her burning house her pictures and her choicest pieces of furniture. She had worked for hours at it, toiling hard to save her little treasures, when on a sudden it came to her mind that one child was missing. One child had been left in the burning house, and when she rushed back again that chamber had long ago been consumed, and the child had, doubtless, perished. Then did she wring her hands, and bitterly bewail her folly. Every bit of furniture that she had saved she seemed to curse, and wished that she had not saved it, because by looking after such poor stuff she had lost her child. Even so every little piece of curious learning and quaint proverb, and deep doctrine that you manage to save from the fire will only accuse your conscience if you let men’s souls perish. We must have them saved, and it is infinitely better that fifty of those admirable discourses upon a difficult point should lie by till we are dead than that we should bring them out and waste fifty Sundays when precious souls are waiting for the good news of mercy. I have often wondered what some sermons were preached for, what design the preacher had in concocting them. I would not suspect the preachers of wishing to display themselves; what else they meant I do not know. Caligula marched his legions with the beating of drums and sounding of trumpets, and display of eagles and banners down to the sea-shore, to gather cockles. And there are sermons of that sort: beating drums and sounding trumpets and flaunting flags, and cockles. A beautiful story is told of the famous Bernard. He preached one day to a congregation with marvellous eloquence and poetic diction; he charmed them all; but when the sermon was done, Bernard was observed to walk away disquieted. He wandered into the wilderness and spent the night alone, fasting because of sadness. The next day, at the time for preaching, he was ready, and delivered himself of a common-place discourse which the great gentlemen who had listened to him the day before thought nothing of, but the poor of the people understood his words and drank them in, and though he heard the censures of the critics, he was observed to walk away with a smile upon his face, and to eat his bread with a merry heart. When one asked the reason, he said, “Heri Bernardum: hodie Jesum Christum.” “Yesterday I preached Bernard; but to-day Jesus Christ.” You, my brethren, will feel happy when you have preached unto them Jesus, and, whoever frowns, your sleep will be sweet to you, for your Master has accepted you.
The full text of this address may be found in the Spurgeon Archive.