Spurgeon on Self-Righteousness
I’m working on a new series for this blog called “American Idols.” I’m hoping to roll it out either later this week, or more likely next week some time. The series will look at some of the common idols in our American society today. I’ve also recently discovered the treasury that is the sermons and writings of Charles Spurgeon. I’m not sure how it has taken me this long to find them, but I’m glad that I finally did. His vivid writing bring theological concepts to life and light.
Anyhow, in doing some research on what idolatry, I came across the following a Spurgeon sermon entitled “Idols Abolished.” In the following excerpt, Spurgeon looks at the idol of self-righteousness. If you can read what he has to say and not feel at all convicted, you might what to examine whether your heart has been hardened to your own self-righteousness and pray that God would search your heart and reveal any such idol to you. There is an even more powerful portion of the sermon on idolatry and the cross of Christ, but I am saving that for the introduction to the “American Idols” series. Here is what Spurgeon has to say about self-righteousness:
Attend earnestly, dear hearers, for perhaps some of you may be worshipping idols now. We will go into the temple of your heart and see whether we can find a false god there. I go into one heart, and, as I look up, I see a gigantic idol; it is gilded all over and clothed in shining robes: its eyes seem to be jewels, and its forehead is “as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires”; it is a very lovely idol to look upon. Come not too close, do not examine too severely, nor so much as dream of looking inside the hollow sham. Within it you will find all manner of rottenness and filthiness, but the outside of the idol is adorned with the greatest art and skill, and you may even become enamored of it a you stand and gaze upon it.
What is its name? Its name is self-righteousness. Well do I remember when I used to worship this image which my own hands had made, till one morning my god had his head broken off, and by-and-by I found his hands were gone, and soon I found that the worm was devouring it, and my god that I worshipped and trusted in turned out to be a heap of dross and dung, whereas I had thought it to be a mass of solid gold, with eyes of diamonds. Alas, there are many men to whom no such revelation has been given. Their idol is still in first-rate condition. True, perhaps, at Christmas-time it gets a little out of order, and they feel that they did not quite behave as they ought when the bottle went round so freely, but they have called in the goldsmith to overlay the idol with new gold and gild the chipped places afresh. Have they not been to church since then? Did they not go on Christmas morning to a place of worship, and make it all right? Have they not repeated extra prayers, and given a little more away in charity? So they have furbished their god up again, and he looks very respectable. Ah, it is easy to tinker him up, my brethren, until the ark of the Lord comes in, and then all the smiths in the world cannot keep this god erect. If the gospel of Jesus Christ once enters into the soul, then, straightway, this wonderful god begins to bow himself, and, like Dagon, who was broken before the ark of the Lord, self-righteousness is dashed to pieces. But there are thousands all over this world who worship this god, and I will tell you how they pray to it. They say, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are,” and so on, not exactly in the Pharisee’s language, but after the same style. “Lord, I thank thee that I pay everybody twenty shillings in the pound, and have brought up my children respectably. God, I thank thee that I have been a regular churchgoing or chapel-going man all my life. God, I thank thee that I am not a swearer, nor yet a drunkard, nor anything of that kind. I am far better than most people; and if I do not get to heaven it will be very bad for my neighbors, for they are not half as good as I am.” In this manner is this monstrous deity adored. I am not speaking of what is done in Hindustan, but of an idolatry very fashionable in England. The god of self-righteousness is lord paramount in millions of hearts. Oh, that every worshipper of that god may be led to say, “What have I to do any more with this abominable idol?”
I had enough to do with my self-righteousness, I do boldly say; for, oh, how I loathe to think that I should ever have been such a fool as to think that there was anything good in me—to think that I could ever have dreamed of coming before God with a righteousness of my own. Oh, how I abhor the thought! God forbid for one single moment that I should ever be other than ashamed of having boasted in aught that I could do or feel or be. Do you not feel yourselves humiliated at the remembrance of such pride and presumption? What have you to do any more with the idol of righteous self? Nothing. We can never bow down before that any more.