“We will now occupy one or two minutes with THE CONSEQUENT PERPETUITY OF THE CHURCH. Because of the unseen but most certain presence of Christ as King in the midst of his people, his Church ABIDES—so says the text. Here reflect first that a Church exists. What a wonder this! It is perhaps, the greatest miracle of all ages that God has a Church in the world. You who are conversant with human history will hear me out when I say that the whole history of the Church is a series of miracles, a long stream of wonders! A little spark kindled in the midst of oceans, and yet all her boisterous waves cannot quench it! Here is the great wonder which John saw in vision, and which history reveals in solemn, sober fact. A woman, “being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon . . . stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” The man-child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, was brought forth and caught up to God and to his throne. As for the woman, the Church, she fled as on eagles’ wings to her wilderness-shelter prepared of God, until, in great wrath, the dragon pursued and persecuted her. Apt enough is that metaphor, “The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood . . . And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Yet, my brethren, as surely as that glorious man-child, the Lord Jesus, lives and sits upon the throne, so surely shall the woman, the poor afflicted Church, live on until the dragon’s time is over, and the King shall reign upon the earth.
To what trials, my brethren, has not the Church of God been subjected? What new invention can Satan bring forth? The fire, the rack, imprisonment, banishment, confiscation, slander, all these have been tried, and in them all the Church has been more than conqueror through him who loved her. False doctrine without, heresy and schism with in, hypocrisy, formalism, fanaticism, pretences of high spirituality, worldliness, these have all done their worst. I marvel at the wondrous ingenuity of the great enemy of the Church, but methinks his devices must nearly have come to an end. Can he invent anything further? We have been astounded in these ages by the prodigy of an infidel bishop; we have been struck dumb with sorrow and amazement at a decree which declares that a Church professing to be a Church of Christ must permit men to be her ministers who deny the inspiration of Holy Scripture. This is a new thing under the sun. Popery and infidelity are to be both legalized and fostered in a Church professing to be Christian and Protestant. What next? and what next? Bat what of all this? The Church, I mean the company of the Lord’s called and faithful and chosen still exists; the Lord has his elect people who still hold forth the Word of truth, and in the most reprobate Church still he may say, “I hay e a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.”
Observe, the text says, “she abides,” which means, not that she exists now and then by starts and spasms, but she exists always. This is wonderful! Always a Church! When the full force of the Pagan Emperors came like a thundering avalanche upon her, she shook off the stupendous load as a man shaketh the flakes of snow from his garment, and she lived on uninjured. When papal Rome vented its malice yet more furiously and ingeniously; when cruel murderers hunted the saints among the Alps, or worried them in the low country; when Albigenses and Waldenses poured out their blood in rivers, and dyed the snow with crimson, she lived still, and never was in a healthier state than when she was immersed in her own gore. When after a partial reformation in this country, the pretenders to religion determined that the truly spiritual should be harried out of the land, God’s Church did not sleep or suspend her career of life or service. Let the covenant signed in blood witness to the vigor of the persecuted saints. Hearken to her psalm amidst the brown heath-clad hills of Scotland, and her prayer in the secret conventicles of England. Hear ye the voice of Cargil and Cameron thundering among the mountains against a false king and an apostate people; hear ye the testimony of Bunyan and his compeers who would sooner rot in dungeons than bow the knee to Baal. Ask me “Where is the Church?” and I can find her at any and every period from the day when first in the upper room the Holy Ghost came down even until now. In. one unbroken line our apostolic succession runs; not through the Church of Rome; not from the superstitious hands of priest-made popes, or king-created bishops, (what a varnished lie is the apostolic succession of those who boast so proudly of it!) but through the blood of good men and true, who never forsook the testimony of Jesus; through the loins of true pastors, laborious evangelists, faithful martyrs, and honorable men of God, we trace our pedigree up to the fishermen of Galilee and glory that we perpetuate by God’s grace that true and faithful Church of the living God, in whom Christ did abide and will abide until the world’s crash.
Observe, dear friends, that in the use of the term “Abide,” we have not only existence, and continued existence, but the idea of quiet, calm, uninjured duration. It does not say she lingers, hunted, tempted, worried, but she abides. Oh! the calmness of the Church of God under the attacks of her most malicious foes. Thou cruel adversary, the virgin daughter of Zion hath shaken her head at thee and laughed thee to scorn! She abides in peace when the world rages against her. It is most noteworthy how in most instances the Church of God still keeps her foothold where she has been most savagely persecuted. In modern times we find in Madagascar, after years of exterminating persecution, the Church of God rises from her ashes, like the phoenix from the flames. The chief wonder is that she abides perfect. Not one of God’s elect has gone back; not one of the blood-bought has denied the faith. Not one single soul which ever was effectually called can be made to deny Christ, even though his flesh should be pulled from his bones by hot pincers, or his tormented body flung to the jaws of wild beasts. All that the enemy has done has been of no avail against the Church. The old rock has been washed, and washed, and washed again by stormy waves, and submerged a thousand times in the floods of tempest, hut even her angles and corners abide unaltered and unalterable. We may say of the Lord’s tabernacle, not one of he stakes thereof has been removed, nor one of her cords boom broken. The house of he Lord from foundation to pinnacle is perfect still: “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house and it fell not;” nay, nor a single stone of it “for it was founded upon a rock.”
Charles Spurgeon, March 20, 1864 For the full sermon click here.