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Simon the Pedlar

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the January 1866 Sword and Trowel


ABOUT THE YEAR 1553, at Bergen op Zoom, in Brabant, there was a pedlar named Simon, standing in the market selling his wares. The priests with their idol* passing by, the said Simon dared not show the counterfeit god any divine honour; but following the testimony of God in the holy Scripture, he worshipped the Lord his God only, and Him alone served. He was therefore seized by the advocates of the Romish Antichrist, and examined as to his faith. This he boldly confessed. He rejected infant baptism as a mere human invention, with all the commandments of men, holding fast the testimony of the word of God; he was therefore condemned to death by the enemies of the truth. They led him outside the town, and for the testimony of Jesus committed him to the flames. The astonishment of the bystanders was greatly excited when they saw the remarkable boldness and steadfastness of this pious witness of God, who, through grace, thus obtained the crown of everlasting life.
    "The bailiff, who procured his condemnation, on his return home from the execution fell mortally sick, and was confined to his bed. In his suffering and sorrow he continually exclaimed, Oh Simon, Simon! The priests and monks sought to absolve him; but he would not be comforted. He speedily expired in despair, an instructive and memorable example to all tyrants and persecutors."
    Such is the brief story of Simon the Baptist pedlar as we find it in the grand old folio volume of Baptist Martyrology, a copy of which we brought home with us from Amsterdam. It is well to review the memory of the brave days of old that we may be inspired with the like uncompromising spirit. Not a nod of the head or a bend of the knee will the solitary champion concede to the idol before which others prostrate themselves. His life must answer for his daring, but no entreaties or threats can move him; he can burn but be cannot turn; he can yield his body to the tormenters, but not his soul to the tempters. Things invisible have nerved his heart against all visible terrors, and the fear of the most holy God has banished from him all fear of man. He sought not the conflict, but he dared not shun it, and now that the hour is come for witness-bearing, pedlar though he be, he bears himself in a right princely manner, and proves himself one of the nobility of heaven. He might have lived and died in obscurity, a humble member of the band who have not bowed their knees to Baal, but now the test is put before him, and he will not quail; at all hazards he will be true to his conscience and his God.

"He lived unknown
Till persecution dragged him into fame,
And chased him up to heaven."

    Short and sharp was the action of the persecutor, swift and sure was the transformation of the pedlar into one of the white-robed throng before the throne. That calm face was lit up for a few moments with the lurid glare of blazing faggots, and anon that upright frame fell in ashes about the stake. Think not that he threw himself away for the Lord, and was lost to the Church by his decision; far from it; his death was more useful than his life; for through the page of history speaking from the stake he is to this day right eloquent, and being dead yet speaketh. He was sown like good seed-corn in fertile soil, and the harvest is not all reaped as yet; the year of the redeemed has not yet reached the full feast of ingatherings.

"The blood of martyrs, living still,
Makes the ground pregnant where it flows,
And for their temporary ill
Thereon eternal triumph grows."

    All compliance with that which we know to be erroneous and unscriptural is a form of bowing the knee to Antichrist, and should be loathed by every follower of the Lord Jesus. Union with unsound churches, and compliance with unscriptural ceremonies stain the integrity of many. In many shapes, in our own land, we are tempted to yield up the completeness of our faith, or withhold our testimony against error; but in any form and from any quarter, this temptation is always to be resisted as we would resist Satan himself. We have no more right to give up truth than to give away our master's property. Trimming and temporising, amiable silence, and unfaithful compromises are treasons to God, and are devices of the devil to obtain space and place for the propagation of falsehood, of which he is the father; but decision for truth sees through the enemy's craft, and disdains to yield him so much as a single inch of vantage ground. Charity is a virtue, and so also is decision; and the one must never override the other, or it ceases to be true charity. When believers are stedfast in the truth they impress their age with a respect for their faith, but when they vacillate and yield up their principles the world neither respects them nor their religion. Men look at weathercocks, but never steer by them. To the sinful pleasures of the world the believer must not yield; to its carnal customs he must not bow, and into its spirit he must not drink, or it will be all over with the power, and probably with the very existence of his testimony. When dancing parties, cards, novels, and such-like things are delighted in, grace has no more reigning power. The idol is set up and God is dishonoured. From the world's religion we must keep at an equal distance; although bound to love all the people of God into whatsoever error they may have fallen, we must by no means connect ourselves with Antichrist in any of her branches, lest we be partakers of her plagues. Our nonconformity must be a daily protest against Popery both Romish and Anglican, doctrinal or ceremonial. Nor is it enough for us as believers in the Lord Jesus to be separate from false churches; we must bear our witness for the doctrines of the Word of God; we must cry aloud and spare not, for the times are full of danger, and need bold and living testimonies for the kingship of Jesus and the simplicity of his gospel. He who turns his back on Christ is a coward of the basest sort. He who minces matters to please a flattering world is unworthy of the kingdom! Speak out, act honestly, and if need be suffer for so doing; but never in jot or tittle sell the truth or prove traitor to conscience. The Holy Spirit is to be sought unto to inspire in us the courage which endures unto the end.
C. H. S.

*The host, which in Roman Catholic countries the priests carry through the streets to the house of some dying person, in order to administer the last rites of the Church.

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