By Charles Spurgeon English preacher and author,
in John Ploughman’s Talks: Plain Advice for Plain People, (chapter two, edited), 1869
This book (and much more by Spurgeon) can be viewed at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/plowman.htm
When a man has a particularly empty head, he will often set himself up as a great judge, especially in religion. None is so wise as the man who knows nothing. Hear him talk after he has heard a sermon, and you will know how to pull a good man to pieces if you never knew it before. He sees faults where there are none; and if there be a few things amiss, he makes every mouse into an elephant. It is very likely that neither their ministers nor their sermons are perfect– the best garden may have a few weeds in it– but complainers will complain at anything or nothing, and find fault for the sake of showing off their deep knowledge.
Some of these grumblers are very mighty about the doctrine of a sermon, and here they are as decisive as sledge hammers and as certain as death. He who knows nothing is confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock, and even the sundial, must be set according to their watches. The slightest difference from their opinion proves the other man to be rotten at heart. Venture to argue with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style.
Sometimes it is the way the preacher speaks which is hauled over the coals. Here again is a fine field for fault-finding, for every man has his failing. I never yet saw a minister who had not some quirk or oddity; and these are the bits of cheese which grumblers smell out and nibble at. This man is too slow, and another too fast; the first is too flowery, and the second is too dull. Dear me, if all God’s creatures were judged in this way, we should wring the dove’s neck for being too tame, shoot the robins for eating worms, kill the cows for swinging their tails and the hens for not giving us milk. As to a preacher’s manner, if the sermon is but plainly spoken and true, none should grumble at it because it lacks polish.
I believe that many people think it an uncommonly easy thing to preach, and that they could do it amazingly well themselves. But thoughts are not facts. I try my hand at preaching myself, and in my poor way I find it no easy thing to give the folks something worth hearing. If the critics would but try their own hands at it, they might be a little more quiet. Dogs, however, always will bark, and what is worse, some of them will bite too; but let decent people do all they can, if not to muzzle them, yet to prevent them doing any great mischief. It is a dreadful thing to see a happy family of Christians broken up by talkative fault-finders, and all about nothing. Small is the edge of the wedge, but when the devil is handling it, churches are soon split to pieces, and then everyone wonders why. The fact is, the worst wheel of the cart creaks most, and one fool makes many, and thus many a congregation is set at odds with a good and faithful minister, who could have been a lasting blessing to them. From such grumblers may we all be delivered.
Fault-finding is dreadfully catching: one dog will set a whole kennel howling, and the wisest course is to keep out of the way of a man with ‘the grumbles.’ “The fruit of the spirit is love,” so, “Good-bye all you grumblers, I would rather chew on a bone in peace than fight over an ox roasted whole.”
Exodus 16:2 — In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
John 6:43 — “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.
Galatians 5:22-23 — The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Philippians 2:14-16 — Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
James 5:8-9 — You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
O God, Lord of all power and might, preserver of all thy creatures: Keep us this day in health of body and soundness of mind, in purity of heart and cheerfulness of spirit, in contentment with our lot and charity with our neighbor; and further all our lawful undertakings with thy blessing. In our labor strengthen us; in our pleasure purify us; in our difficulties direct us; in our perils defend us; in our troubles comfort us; and supply all our needs, according to the riches of thy grace in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal, 1958, Augsburg Publishing House