It all came to a head when Spurgeon withdrew his membership from the Baptist Union. Spurgeon lamented the absence of a confession of faith keeping Baptists from drifting away from evangelical doctrines. He feared the downgrading of theology would produce an “emptying of chapels, and the multiplication of spiders” (Autobiography 4:254).
Spurgeon’s withdrawal from the Baptist Union sparked the greatest controversy of his life – the “Downgrade Controversy.” He was opposed by many of his closest friends and students, including eighty alumni from his Pastors’ College.
“I cannot tell you by letter what I have endured in the desertion of my own men” (Letter to a friend, February 21, 1888).
“My heart has been ready to sink within me. . . . Friends have forsaken me” (Letter, An Exposition of Matthew, p. 274).
Yet Spurgeon felt a deeper dagger twist on April 23 when his own brother seconded the vote to censure him.
“I feel heart-broken. Certainly he has done the very opposite of what I should have done. Yet he is not to be blamed, for he followed his best judgment” (Fullerton, C. H. Spurgeon, p. 313-14).
“Reproaches from those who have been intimate with us, and trusted by us, cut us to the quick; and they are usually so well acquainted with our peculiar weaknesses that they know how to touch us where we are most sensitive, and to speak so as to do us most damage” (Treasury of David 3:19).
“An unkind word from a stranger may have a very slight effect upon us; but if such a word should come from the lips of one whom we love, it would cut us to the quick. We could put up with a thousand things from those who are mere acquaintances; but from a beloved child, or from the wife of our bosom, such a thing would be very hard to bear” (MTP 52:86).
The Downgrade Controversy not only damaged the relationship between brothers, but it also compounded Charles’s failing health and resulted in his premature death at the age of 57.
“You will never see me again, this fight is killing me” (Letter to a friend, Autobiography 3:152).
For nearly 40 years, Spurgeon had preached the gospel in London – a gospel that centered on Jesus’s own betrayal by Judas and the other disciples.
Here are ten quotes from a man who had to preach that gospel to himself when he, too, felt the backstabbing ache of betrayal.
1.“I can bear anything for Jesus while His everlasting arms are underneath me.”
“When we are in a battle, we must expect calamities. . . . I can bear anything for Jesus while His everlasting arms are underneath me” (Autobiography 4:256).
2. “Every reputation that has been obscured by the clouds of reproach, for Christ’s sake, shall be rendered glorious.”
“There will be a resurrection of characters as well as of persons. Every reputation that has been obscured by the clouds of reproach, for Christ’s sake, shall be rendered glorious when the righteous shall ‘shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father’” (Autobiography 4:253).
3. “Let me be on my guard when the world puts on a loving face, for it will, if possible, betray me as it did my master, with a kiss.”
“Let me be on my guard when the world puts on a loving face, for it will, if possible, betray me as it did my Master, with a kiss. Whenever a man is about to stab religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it” (Morning and Evening, March 25, Morning).
4. “If you will trust yourselves with the Saviour, he cannot betray or deceive your trust.”
“If you will trust yourselves with the Saviour, he cannot betray or deceive your trust. . . . If we can trust him with our souls we have a hold upon him which he will not shake off, but he will bless us – yea, he will bless us eternally” (MTP 24:204).
5. “[Jesus] is a confidant who never can betray us, a friend who never will refuse us.”
“In all trouble send a message to Jesus, and do not keep your misery to yourself. In his case there is no need of reserve, there is no fear of his treating you with cold pride, or heartless indifference, or cruel treachery. He is a confidant who never can betray us, a friend who never will refuse us” (MTP 26:74).
6. “Oh, the joy of having Christ to go to!”
“Oh, the joy of having Christ to go to! All other friends will sometimes be unfriendly, and the best of them must part with you at your decease, or you with them when they depart out of this world unto the Father; but your Lord will never, never leave you, he will abide with you, and death shall only draw him nearer, for then you shall see his face, and his name shall be in your forehead, and you shall be with him where he is to behold his glory for ever and ever” (MTP 16:281).
7. “Confidence in man will betray your hopes, but faith in God will enrich you beyond your expectations.”
“It is frightfully easy for the heart to rely upon man, as we know right well! . . . [C]onfidence in man will betray your hopes, but faith in God will enrich you beyond your expectations. May our heart always keep to that – trusting God; trusting in God alone” (MTP 24:392).
8. “Be prepared for anything so long as you can stand fast by him who bought you with his precious blood.”
“Be ready for a bad name; be willing to be called a bigot; be prepared for loss of friendships; be prepared for anything so long as you can stand fast by him who bought you with his precious blood. . . . God give you courage, more and more of it, through faith in himself! May you be willing to put your religion to every proper test, the test of life, and the test of death, too!” (MTP 39:31)
9. “Let us not marvel when we are called to tread the road which is marked by his pierced feet.”
“Our blessed Lord had to endure at its worst the deceit and faithlessness of a favoured disciple; let us not marvel when we are called to tread the road which is marked by his pierced feet” (Treasury of David 3:19).
10. “Let us admire the superlative love of Jesus.”
“Now, then, what shall I say in conclusion, but just this: let us admire the superlative love of Jesus. O love, love, what hast thou done! What hast thou done! Thou art omnipotent in suffering. Few of us can bear pain, perhaps, fewer still of us can bear misrepresentation, slander, and ingratitude. These are horrible hornets which sting as with fire: men have been driven to madness by cruel scandals which have been distilled from venomous tongues. Christ throughout life, bore these and other sufferings. Let us love him, as we think of how much he must have loved us” (MTP 19:131).