The Remembrance of Christ
Sermon 1.2 January 7, 1855
This do in remembrance of me.
1 Cor. 11:24
This sermon breaks out into five sections:
The Object of Memory
The Benefit of Memory
The Aid to Memory
The Command to Remember
Rather than tell a story (as is common in current preaching), Spurgeon picks up his text and makes an observation:
If memory is a command, then it implies that we might not remember:
The text implies the possibility of forgetfulness concerning him whom gratitude and affection should constrain them to remember.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Remembrance of Christ,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 9. He will then do two things in the introduction: create an emotional connection; then, analyze the trouble.
First, to grain attention, he is going to elongate the “crime”, enforce the matter by means of a repetition of the initial word “forget”, and then turn the question upon his listeners (this is not the entire section) by means of asking two parallel questions:
It seems at first sight too gross a crime to lay at the door of converted men. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb should ever forget their Ransomer; that those who have been loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should ever forget that Son; but if startling to the ear, it is alas, too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the fact.
Forget him who ne’er forgot us!
Forget him who poured his blood forth for our sins!
Forget him who loved us even to the death!
Can it be possible?
Yes it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault of all of us, that we can remember anything except Christ.
The object which we should make the monarch of our hearts, is the very thing we are most inclined to forget. Where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, that is the spot which is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness, and that the place where memory too seldom looks. I appeal to the conscience of every Christian here:
Can you deny the truth of what I utter?
Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? etc.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Remembrance of Christ,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 9. By means of the rhetorical structure, he has made them “feel” the importance of what he has to convey. Notice he doesn’t say, “this is very important listen to me.” Rather, he forces them to confront the issue and then describes what they both see. The listener comes to know that the question is important: there is no telling them: this is showng them.
Having then draw their hearts to the “crime” of forgetting, he asks the question What causes us to forget? In this section, he lessens the rhetorical intensity because his purpose here is more to think about the matter than feel the enormity of forgetting.
Introduces the answer:
The cause of this is very apparent: it lies in one or two facts.
First answer: In the first section he gives the answer in terms of “we”:
We forget Christ, because regenerate persons as we really are, still corruption and death remain even in the regenerate. We forget him because we carry about with us the old Adam of sin and death. If we were purely new-born creatures, we should never forget the name of him whom we love. If we were entirely regenerated beings, we should sit down and meditate on all our Saviour did and suffered; all he is; all he has gloriously promised to perform; and never would our roving affections stray; but centred, nailed, fixed eternally to one object, we should continually contemplate the death and sufferings of our Lord.
He then turns the knife upon himself:
But alas! we have a worm in the heart, a pest-house, a charnel-house within, lusts, vile imaginations, and strong evil passions, which, like wells of poisonous water, send out continually streams of impurity. I have a heart, which God knoweth, I wish I could wring from my body and hurl to an infinite distance; a soul which is a cage of unclean birds, a den of loathsome creatures, where dragons haunt and owls do congregate, where every evil beast of ill-omen dwells; a heart too vile to have a parallel—“deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” This is the reason why I am forgetful of Christ.
By making himself the object of failure, he brings himself into the world of his listeners. He is not talking down to them; he is coming along side them. By confessing his weakness, he lessens the resistance that might come at this point. He will make the same shift in pronouns in the second answer:
Nor is this the sole cause; I suspect it lies somewhere else too.
We forget Christ because there are so many other things around us to attract our attention. “But,” you say, “they ought not to do so, because though they are around us, they are nothing in comparison with Jesus Christ: though they are in dread proximity to our hearts, what are they compared with Christ?” But do you know, dear friends, that the nearness of an object has a very great effect upon its power? The sun is many, many times larger than the moon, but the moon has a greater influence upon the tides of the ocean than the sun, simply because it is nearer, and has a greater power of attraction.
So I find that a little crawling worm of the earth has more effect upon my soul
than the glorious Christ in heaven;
a handful of golden earth,
a puff of fame, a shout of applause,
a thriving business,
will affect me more than all the glories of the upper world; yea, than the beatific vision itself: simply because earth is near, and heaven is far away.
What we would most often hear in this sort of section is a series of questions: “Do you love fame more than Christ?” And the effect is for the listener to drop out: No, I love Christ more. But Spurgeon takes away that defense by saying “I” love all these things more. And in hearing him charge himself, we see the same fault in ourselves.
He then ends with an encouragement:
Happy day, when I shall be borne aloft on angels’ wings to dwell for ever near my Lord, to bask in the sunshine of his smile, and to be lost in the ineffable radiance of his lovely countenance. We see then the cause of forgetfulness; let us blush over it; let us be sad that we neglect our Lord so much, and now let us attend to his word, “This do in remembrance of me,” hoping that its solemn sounds may charm away the demon of base ingratitude.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Remembrance of Christ,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 9–10.
There are many things happening here, but need to notice his shifts between reason and emotion, between “we” and “I”, between charge (we forget) and the end point of encouragement: some day we will not.
The sum effect of his introduction is make them listener feel and know that the subject matter is of great importance. By moving from a charge to an encouragement, he makes space to want to follow him into this question of forgetting.