“The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.
We are sent into this world to testify against evils; but if we dabble in them ourselves, where is our testimony? If we ourselves be found faulty, we are false witnesses; we are not sent of God; our testimony is of none effect.
I do not hesitate to say there are tens of thousands of professing Christians, whose testimony before the world is rather injurious than beneficial. The world looks at them, and says, ‘Well, I see: you can be a Christian, and yet remain a rogue.’
‘Ah!’ says another, ‘you can be a Christian, I perceive; but then you will have to be doleful and miserable.’
‘Ah!’ cries another, ‘these Christians like to drink sin in secret behind the door. Their Christianity lies in not liking to sin openly; but they can devour a widow’s house when nobody is looking on; they can be drunkards, only it must be in a very small party; they would not like to be discovered tipsy where there were a hundred eyes to look at them.’
Now, what is all that? It is just this,—that the world has found out that the Church visible is not the unmixed Church of Christ, since it is not true to its principles, and does not stand up for the uprightness and integrity which are the marks of the genuine church of God.
Many Christians forget that they are bearing a testimony: they do not think that anybody notices them. Ay, but they do. There are no people so much watched as Christians.
The world reads us up, from the first letter of our lives to the end; and if they can find a flaw—and, God forgive us, they may find very many—they are sure to magnify the flaw as much as ever they can.
Let us therefore be very watchful, that we live close to Christ, that we walk in his commandments always, that the world may see that the Lord hath put a difference.
But now I have a very sad thing to say—I wish that I could withhold it, but I cannot. Unless, brothers and sisters, you make it your daily business to see that there is a difference between you and the world, you will do more hurt than you can possibly do good.
The Church of Christ is at this day accountable for many fearful sins. Let me mention one which is but the type of others.
By what means think you were the fetters rivetted on the wrist of our friend who sits there, a man like ourselves, though of a black skin?
It is the Church of Christ that keeps his brethren under bondage; if it were not for that Church, the system of slavery would go back to the hell from which it sprung.
If there were no slave floggers but men who are fit for so degrading an office, if there were not found Christian ministers who can apologise for slavery from the pulpit, and church members who sell the children of nobler beings than themselves, if it were not for this, then Africa would be free.
Albert Barnes spoke right truly when he said slavery could not exist for an hour if it were not for the countenance of the Christian Church.
But what does the slaveholder say when you tell him that to hold our fellow-creatures in bondage is a sin, and a damnable one, inconsistent with grace?
He replies, ‘I do not believe your slanders; look at the Bishop of So-and-so, or the minister of such-and-such a place, is not he a good man, and does not he whine out ‘Cursed be Canaan?’ Does not he quote Philemon and Onesimus? Does he not go and talk Bible, and tell his slaves that they ought to feel very grateful for being his slaves, for God Almighty made them on purpose that they might enjoy the rare privilege of being cowhided by a Christian master. Don’t tell me,’ he says, ‘if the thing were wrong, it would not have the Church on its side.’
And so Christ’s free Church bought with His blood, must bear the shame of cursing Africa, and keeping her sons in bondage.
From this evil, good Lord deliver us.
If Manchester merchants and Liverpool traders have a share in this guilt, at least let the Church be free of this hell-filling crime.
Men have tried hard to make the Bible support this sum of all villanies, but slavery, the thing which defiles the Great Republic, such slavery is quite unknown to the Word of God, and by the laws of the Jews it was impossible that it ever could exist.
I have known men quote texts as excuses for being damned, and I do not wonder that men can find Scripture to justify them in buying and selling the souls of men.
And what think you is it, to come home to our own land, that props up the system of trade that is carried on among us?
I would not speak too severely of Christ’s Church, for I love her; but because I love her I must therefore utter this.
Our being so much like the world, our trading as the world trades, our talking as the world talks, our always insisting upon it that we must do as other people do, this is doing more mischief to the world, than all our preachers can hope to effect good.
‘Come ye out from among them; touch not the unclean thing, be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.'”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Separating the Precious from the Vile,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (vol. 6; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 6: 154–156.