Spurgeon’s “Let the lion out of the cage” quote

Every now and then, I hear it attributed to some great preacher of the past that the gospel (or sometimes, the Bible) is like a lion (or sometimes, a tiger). The idea is that it doesn’t need to be defended; it just needs to be let out of the cage.

It’s a great quote, but what is the source? It comes from Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century Baptist preacher. He actually said it in two slightly different forms. In both forms he was talking about the gospel, and comparing it to a lion. This is from a sermon titled “The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace”:

The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.

And like many preachers with a good illustration, he repeated it. This is from a sermon called “Christ and His Co-Workers”:

A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.

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About Elliot

Elliot was born in Michigan and raised in North Carolina. He has studied at Regent College and the University of Richmond, worked at newspapers in St. Petersburg and Los Angeles, taught ESL in eastern Europe, given tours in Alaska, and driven a school bus. Now he lives in western Washington and works as an editor at Lexham Press, the publishing arm of Faithlife Corporation.
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