The Influence of Spurgeon: A Boon for the Soul

 

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on this date, June 19, 1834 – one hundred and eighty-three years ago.  I got to thinking about the influence that Spurgeon has had on my thinking, theology, and Christian life.  This thought led to another interesting tidbit.  I have been influenced by many Christian men over the years – most of whom I have never met.  On Spurgeon’s birthday, consider a few noteworthy men who have played a role in my life.  I commend their lives and writings to you.

C.H. Spurgeon Courage in the face of adversity, an unwavering trust in God’s sovereign purposes, rock-solid commitment to prayer, and a die-hard, Christ-exalting determination in the pulpit.

Jonathan Edwards The sovereignty of God in all things.

John Owen The glory of Christ, communion with Christ, and the death of death in the death of Christ.

John BunyanWarm-hearted devotion and Pilgrim’s Progress.

John CalvinHumility, contrition, and trembling before God’s Word.

Martin Luther Commitment to truth and rediscovering justification by faith.

William Tyndale – Zeal for translating the Word of God into the language of the common man.

John Knox  – Steely resolve in the face of adversity.

Thomas Watson Courage under fire and commitment to biblical principles.

Polycarp Refusing to bend under pressure.  An enemy of pragmatism.

Martyn-Lloyd Jones Biblical preaching/logic on fire!

Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, David Brainerd Missionary zeal.

John PiperDelighting in God and the fight for joy.

Al Mohler – Confronting culture with the unchanging truths of Scripture.

Francis Schaeffer Heart for lost people, love for truth, and biblical worldview.

John MacArthur Faithfulness in the pulpit.

Steven Lawson Expository preaching.

R.C. Sproul – The holiness of God and Reformed theology.

Ron Nash – Christ-saturated intellectual and spiritual passion.

John Frame The doctrine of God.

J.I. Packer Knowing God and Christian creeds.

Wayne Grudem Systematic theology and a biblical understanding of the Trinity.

David A. Steele (Dad) Commitment to Scripture, leadership, and personal integrity.

Wayne Pickens Patiently and lovingly shepherding the flock, commitment to truth, and personal integrity.

Bruce A. Ware – High view of God and the authority of Scripture, and a commitment to the eternal relations of authority and submission in the Trinity.

Don Robinson – Evangelistic zeal, bold resolve.

Cal Blom Pastoral faithfulness, spiritual disciplines, and integrity.

David Needham – Lover of God and family.

Ron Frost – Approach to God and scholarship.

Hugh Salisbury Evangelistic zeal and love God and people.

 

 

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SPURGEON’S CALVINISM

spurgeonThe seventeenth century theologians at Dort responded swiftly and decisively to the rising tide of Arminianism.  The official response came as a result of the Synod of Dort which convened in 1618-1619, over one hundred years after John Calvin’s birth in 1509.  Their response is summarized in the famous TULIP acrostic:

T – Total depravity

U – Unconditional election

L – Limited Atonement

I – Irresistible Grace

P – Perseverance of the Saints

So while the formulation of Calvinism as we know it today did not originate with Calvin himself, it is important to understand that these doctrinal moorings originated with the apostles and Jesus himself, 1500 years before the birth of John Calvin!

This reality becomes clear in C.H. Spurgeon’s little book, “A Defense of Calvinism.”  Spurgeon’s Calvinism, edited by Stephen McCaskell is an updated version of Spurgeon’s original work.  The author has edited out much of Spurgeon’s Victorian language which will be a valuable service for most readers.

Spurgeon was a unashamed Calvinist, a label is wore until his death in 1892.  He held that “Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.”  In Spurgeon’s Calvinism, the Prince of Preachers walks readers through the five points that were formulated at Dort.  Readers familiar with his style will be drawn to his passion for Scripture and his ability to relate the doctrines in a unified whole.  While Spurgeon’s treatment of the doctrines of grace prove to be unshakeable in the final analysis, the real highlight of the book is its ability to draw worshippers to the throne of God.  Spurgeon’s Calvinism is a fitting introduction to this biblical way of viewing God’s purposes in redemptive history.

“The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God.  I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine.  John Knox’s gospel is my gospel.  That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.” – C.H. Spurgeon

 

 

 

LIVING BY REVEALED TRUTH: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Tom Nettles (2013) Part 9

Chapter 16: Spurgeon and Baptists in America1781911223_b

Of course, Spurgeon’s influence was felt around the world but his influence in America was especially profound.  George Truett pays the Prince of Preachers a wonderful compliment: “[He] had no sort of fellowship with the nerveless, hazy, intellectual libertinism that plays fast and loose with the eternal verities of Christ’s gospel … [He taught] the great themes of divine revelation: the sovereignty of God; the holiness of God; the love of God; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the solemn wonders of the cross; the divine forgiveness of sins; the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; the fellowships of Christ’s sufferings; the power of his resurrection.”

Chapter 17: Sickness, Suffering, Depression

It is common knowledge that Spurgeon suffered greatly throughout his life.  He was tormented from all sides, had numerous physical ailments and battled depression for most of his adult life (as is chronicled especially in Iain Murray’s terrific book, The Forgotten Spurgeon.  His godly example is also known well: “Our happiness does not depend upon our understanding the providence of God.”  Nettles remarks, “Spurgeon never doubted that his exquisite pain, frequent sickness, and even despondency were given to him by God for his sanctification in a wise and holy purpose.”

So Spurgeon developed a theology of suffering that grew out of his own painful crucible.  His response was nothing less than God-centered and serves as an inspiration for anyone who endures a dark night of the soul.

Chapter 18: Conduct in the Face of Death

Spurgeon was not a perfect man.  He struggled with indwelling sin and battled the flesh all the way to the Celestial City.  But Nettles makes the point abundantly clear.  Spurgeon finished well.  The British pastor said, “Should you even lie in all the despair and desolation which I described, I would persuade you to believe in Jesus.  Trust him, and you shall find him all that you want.”

Summary

Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a sweeping epic that beautifully illustrates the life and legacy of one of the most prolific pastors ever.  Tom Nettles has done a great service for the church by researching and writing with the depth of a seasoned theologian and the heart of a caring pastor.

Highly recommended

LIVING BY REVEALED TRUTH: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Tom Nettles (2013) Part 7

1781911223_bChapter 10: Theological Foundations for a Benevolent Ministry

Spurgeon placed the highest priority on the Word of God and proclaimed the truth of Scripture with blood-earnest faithfulness.  But he also had a burden for practical ministry: “We want more Christian ministries of the practical sort.”   He was the primary visionary behind the Orphanage for Boys.  Nettles summarizes Spurgeon’s heart who “saw the needs of childhood not only in terms of food, shelter, and clothing, but in terms of family relationships, maternal care, and pure childish delight.”

Chapter 11: Personal Theory and Preferences in the Production of Godly Literature

Both Spurgeon and his wife were lovers of books.  Mrs. Spurgeon began a Book Fund which was a deep encouragement to pastors in western Europe.  Spurgeon’s writing ministry flourished for most of his ministry.  Soon his sermons were being sent all around the globe

Chapter 12: Literature About Right, Wrong, and Truth

One of the most enduring qualities of this chapter was the discussion that focused on Spurgeon’s love for Jonathan Edwards.  Nettles writes, “Spurgeon’s spirituality savored of an Edwardsean aroma … Spurgeon had a personal appreciation for careful scholarship and its usefulness to the church.  He always longed, however, that scholarship and orthodoxy be suffused with the pulsation of spiritual life.”

LIVING BY REVEALED TRUTH: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Tom Nettles (2013) Part 6

1781911223_bChapter 6: Spurgeon’s Message of Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice

“The Lord Jesus Christ on his cross of redemption was the center, circumference, and summation of the preaching ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” writes Nettles.  This is the theme that readers are drawn to again and again in this excellent biography.  A few direct citations from Spurgeon will drive this truth home:

“Redemption is the heart of the gospel and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary atonement of Christ.”

” … The death of Christ was the hinge of the world’s history.”

“Christ’s people shall be made willing in the day of his power, and the great attraction by which they will be drawn to him will be his death on the cross.”

“The cross is the mighty battering ram wherewith to break in pieces the brazen gates of human prejudices and the iron bars of obstinacy.”

Chapter 7: The Challenge of Church Life and the Governance of Worship

The burden of shepherding the flock was often times overwhelming for Spurgeon: “Sometimes I become so perplexed that I sink in heart, and dream that it were better for me never to have been born than to have been called to bear all this multitude upon my heart.”  The Metropolitan Tabernacle made a crucial error in electing deacons for life – a polity policy that will often times prove to be detrimental to the health of the church.

Chapter 8: The Gospel is Evangelism

Anyone familiar with Spurgeon’s ministry understands the importance of evangelism as a normal part of church life.  He shared the gospel personally and also preached the gospel passionately.  Nettles adds, “Preaching to convert souls, for Spurgeon, meant laying out the full counsel of God to the sinner.”  Spurgeon’s Reformed soteriology demanded a strong message that warned sinners: “Men must be told that they are dead … and that only the Holy Spirit can quicken them.”  He resisted the Arminian approach to evangelism with holy fervor.

Chapter 9: Use of Evangelists

Chapter 9 is an extension of Spurgeon’s approach to evangelism.  Nettles highlights Spurgeon’s Calvinistic zeal: “To keep back any part of the gospel is neither right nor ‘the true method for saving men.’  All doctrine is saving truth.  ‘If you hold Calvinistic doctrine, as I hope you do, do not stutter about it, nor stammer over it, but speak it out.’  The lack of a full-orbed gospel is behind the evanescence of many so-called revivals.”

LIVING BY REVEALED TRUTH: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Tom Nettles (2013) Part 4

1781911223_bChapter 3: The Metropolitan Tabernacle

The construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was a watershed moment in Spurgeon’s ministry.  Nettles remarks, “He believed that the completion of the Tabernacle signaled an advance for the gospel in the whole city.”  Spurgeon’s new pulpit became the sounding board for the doctrines of grace which began in London but echoed around the globe as his  sermons were being printed by the thousands.

Spurgeon articulated and proclaimed a strong Calvinistic message, never compromising the core planks that were formulated at the Synod of Dort.  He preached with a style that was narrative driven but doctrinally rich.

Chapter 4: Preaching the Whole Counsel

The author highlights Spurgeon’s passion to preach Scripture in its entirety.  Dr. Nettles beautifully summarizes the essence of Spurgeon’s ministry: “This is the main glory of ministry, to preach Christ – his substitution, that he became a curse for us, dying the just for the unjust in the stead of his people.  Christ must be preached in a lively, earnest, spiritual manner in order for him to be set forth plainly as crucified, even as Paul did before the Galatians.”

Spurgeon’s bold style is emphasized: “We must preach Christ courageously … Pray the message in before you preach it out.”

While Spurgeon did not necessarily preach verse by verse, he was an expository preacher.  The author notes, “For Spurgeon, true exposition meant, in Puritan fashion, using the whole Bible and all its doctrines in the unfolding of any one portion of Scripture.”  And preaching expository message, for Spurgeon meant doctrine must be the backbone of every sermon: “Full submission to the authority of Scripture demanded that one be ready to embrace every doctrine of the Word of God.”  For Spurgeon, watering down the message was tantamount to compromise.

At the end of the day, faithfulness in the pulpit meant proclaiming the power of the cross.  This is gospel preaching.  Spurgeon declared, “I believe that the best, surest, and most permanent way to fill a place of worship is to preach the gospel, and to preach it in a natural, simple interesting, earnest way.”  Powerful words for pastors to heed in the 21st century – preachers who all too often capitulate to the demands of culture and marginalize the message to appease carnal listeners.

LIVING BY REVEALED TRUTH: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Tom Nettles (2013) Part 3

1781911223_bChapter 2: Made for Gospel Ministry

Dr. Nettles continues to guide readers on a fascinating account of Spurgeon’s ministry by beginning with his first sermon and first pastorate.  Spurgeon himself admitted, “I felt my own inability to preach.”  Yet the rookie preacher acknowledged from the beginning that God had his number.  Spurgeon affirmed the irresistible sovereign grace that God wielded upon his life, the One who “had plucked me as a brand from the burning, and set me upon a rock, and put a new song in my mouth, and established my goings.”

Spurgeon affirmed the doctrines of grace at the beginning of his ministry and finished strong as a five point Calvinist.  He proclaimed, “I am a Calvinist … It is Calvinism they want in London, and any Arminian preaching will not be endured.”  My how times have changed.  These days, a tepid Arminianism dominates many pulpits, especially in America.  And when the doctrines of grace wane, the church diminishes in power and gospel effectiveness.  But most of all, the glory of God is obscured.

One notable feature is the power that was manifest in Spurgeon’s pulpit from the onset of his ministry.  He remarked, “The pulpit is no place for weak, stunted, deformed, wretched-looking men.”  He maintained his commitment to Calvinism with bold resolve while at the same time fleeing from the erroneous doctrine of hyper-Calvinism.  Indeed, this man was made for gospel ministry.