Beware of Foxes
by: Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
For more than a century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon's sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author's own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today's reader, the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Spurgeon's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
--- Tony Capoccia
Dear young friends who have recently found Christ, there are foxes all around. We try all we can to stop the gaps in the hedge, that we may keep the foxes out; but they are very crafty, and they manage to get in sometimes. The foxes in the East are much smaller than ours, and they seem to be even more cunning and more ferocious than those we have in this country, and they do much mischief to the vines.
In the spiritual vineyard there are foxes
of many kinds. There is, first, the censurer. He will spoil the
vines if he can, and
especially the vines that have tender grapes. He finds fault with everything that he can see in you who are but young believers. You know that you are simply depending upon Christ for salvation; but this censurer says, "You are no child of God, for you are far from being perfect." If God had no children but those who are perfect, He would have none under heaven. These faultfinding people will find fault with this and that and the other in your life and character, and you know well enough that you have all too many imperfections, and if they look for them, they can soon spy them out. Then they say, "We do not believe that there is any grace at all in you," though you know that by the grace of God you are what you are. It may be that there is a fault in you which they have discovered, perhaps you were taken by surprise, and suddenly overcome. Possibly, they even set a trap for you, and allured you into it, provoking you to anger, and then turning on you, said, "You have made a profession, have you? That is your religion, is it?" and so on. May God deliver you from these cruel foxes! He will often do so by enabling you not to pay attention to them. After all, this is the way in which all Christians have been tried, there is nothing strange in your experience from these censurers; and they are not your judges, you will not be condemned because they condemn you. Go and do your best in the service of your Lord; trust in Christ, and do not mind what they say; and you will be delivered from that kind of fox.
A worse fox even than that one, however, is the flatterer. He comes to you smiling and grinning, and he begins to express his approval of your religion, and very likely tells you what a fine person you are. Indeed, you are so good that he thinks you are rather too holy, you have gone a little over the line! He believes in religion, he says, fully; though, if you watch his life, you will not think so; but he says that he does not want people to be too righteous; he knows that there is a line to be drawn, and he draws it. I never could see where he drew it; but still he says he does, and he thinks that you draw the line a little too near the cross.
He says, "You might be a little bit more worldly, you cannot get through life your way; if you get out of society, you might as well get out of the world. Why do you make yourself appear so separate?" I know what he is after; he wants to get you back among the ungodly. Satan misses you, and he wants to have you again, and he is sending Mr. Flatterer to coax you back, if possible, into your former bondage to him. Get away from that fox at once. The man who tells you that you are too rigid ought to be squarely told that you do not want his company. There never lived a man who was too holy, and there will never live a man who will imitate Christ too closely, or avoid sin too rigidly.
Whenever a man says that you are too strict, you may always smell one of these foxes. It would be better if we were all more strict and literal. Has not our Father said to us, "Be holy, because I am holy?" Did not our Lord Jesus say to His disciples, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect?"
Then there comes another fox, Mr. Worldy-wiseman. He says, "You are a Christian, but do not be a fool. Carry your religion as far as you can to make it pay; but if it comes to losing anything because of it, well then, don't you do it. You see, this practice is the custom of the trade; it is not right, I know, but still, other people do it, and you ought to do it. If you don't, then you will never get ahead." Mr. Worldly-wiseman further says, "Don't worry if you tell a lie or two, make your advertisements say what is not true; everybody else does it, and why shouldn't you? Try to give your customer a little less here and there when he doesn't know it, it is common practice in business; it is the way other people do it, and of course you should do it too."
To all such talk I reply that there is another practice, a practice that God has, of sending all liars to hell. There is another practice that God has--namely, that of exposing as hypocrites those who do not walk honestly and uprightly towards their fellow-men. The plea of "common practice" will not stand for a moment at the judgement-seat of Christ; and it ought not to stand with us here. I know that there are many young people who, unless they are watchful and careful at the very beginning of their spiritual life, will become crippled, and never walk as they ought to do, because this fox has bitten them.
There is another ugly fox walking about, and that is a doubting fox. He comes and says, "You seem very happy and very joyful; but is it true? You appear to be a different person from what you used to be; but is there, after all, such a thing as conversion?" This fox begins nibbling at every doctrine, he even nibbles at your Bible, and tries to steal from you this chapter and that verse. God save you young people from all these foxes!
There are some foxes of "false doctrine," and they generally try to hurt our young people. No one ever tries to convert me from my belief; the other day, when a man was arguing with another, I asked him, "Why don't you try me?" "Oh," he said, "I have given up on you as a lost cause, there is no use trying to do anything with you." This is the way it is when we get to be thoroughly confirmed in our convictions of the truth; they give up, and they generally say that we are such fools that we cannot learn their wisdom, which really is quite correct.
But with some of the younger folk, they have a different approach. They say, "Now you are a reasonable person who has an educated mind, you are a man of culture; it is a shame that you should cling to those old-fashioned beliefs, which really are not consistent with our modern age;" and the foolish young fellow believes that he is an exceptional person and becomes puffed up with conceit.
When a man has to talk about his own culture, and to glory in his own advancement, it is time that we suspected his belief in the truth. When a man can despise others who are doing vastly more good than he ever dreamed of doing, and call such people antiquated and old-fashioned, it is time that he should get rebuked for his rudeness, for that is what it really is. These clever men, as far as I know them, are simply covered with a little learning, not a sixteenth-thousandth of an inch thick. There is nothing in the most of them but mere show and noise; but there are some who hold firmly to the Old Gospel, who have read as much as they are ever likely to do, and are fully their equals in learning, though they do not care to boast of their accomplishments.
Do not any of you young people be carried away with the notion that all scholarly men are heretics; it is largely the reverse, and it is the misleading, empty philosopher who goes running after heresy. Get out of the way of that fox, or else he will do much damage to the tender grapes.
If you have any sign of spiritual life, if you have any tender grapes on your branches, the devil and his foxes will be sure to be after you; therefore, strive to get as close as you can to two persons who have been emphasized in this text--namely, The King and His spouse. First, keep close to Christ, for this is your life; and, next, keep close to His Church, for this is your comfort. Get among elderly Christian people, seek to get to know those who have long known the Lord, those who are farther along on the heavenly road than you are. Pilgrims should walk together on their way to heaven, just like we are reminded in the book, "Pilgrims Progress," by Paul Bunyan, where they get a Mr. Greatheart to lead the way, it saves them from many a Giant Slaygood and many a Giant Grim, and they have a safe and happy journey to the Celestial City rather than having been attacked and worried.
Keep close to God's people, whoever they may be; they are the best company for you young believers. Some Christians may, like Bunyan's pilgrim, start on the road to heaven alone; but they miss a lot of comfort that they might of had with companions of a kindred spirit. As for Chistiana and her children, and the younger folk especially, they will do well to keep in company with someone of the Lord's champions, and with the rest of the army, carrying banners, who are marching towards the Celestial City.