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

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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 5

Chapter 5 : Theological Method and Content1781911223_b

The author places the spot light on the most prominent feature of Spurgeon’s ministry, namely, the proclamation of the gospel. While Spurgeon attracted thousands of admirers over the course of his ministry, he was also plagued with critics and naysayers. Nettles notes, “Spurgeon quickly learned that a preacher bent on pleasing all his critics would speedily leave the ranks of the ministry.” But Spurgeon would not be distracted. He faithfully forged a gospel path for his hearers – a path that led to eternal life for everyone who believes.

Spurgeon’s gospel focus was narrow and focussed and serves as a necessary reminder for preachers today. “Preach all you know about Christ … To conceal the plain truth of salvation beneath a cloud of words, when God’s honor and eternal human destiny are at stake, is treason to men’s souls and diabolical cruelty.” The cross was the centerpiece of Spurgeon’s ministry. He never compromised his primary calling – the preaching of Christ crucified.

Spurgeon was an accomplished theologian. Nettles weighs in: “The Christian theologian must be clearly Christian and no less clear a theologian.” Spurgeon’s example is a rebuke to many modern preachers who glory in their aversion to theology. The notion of a pastor who preaches messages void of theology would have repulsed the prince of preachers.

Spurgeon was an unashamed admirer of the Puritans and Reformers. Nettles remarks, “Spurgeon advocated a pure Biblicism for theological construction. He loved the historic confessions and the pious and helpful writings of the Reformers and Puritans …” Spurgeon taught the importance of reading dead readers – theologians with a backbone and the courage to proclaim the unchanging Word of God.

Spurgeon unapologetically embraced the doctrines of grace and proudly proclaimed the five points of Calvinism, including the doctrine of particular redemption. He lamented that “most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace.”

The author makes it clear that Spurgeon’s sermons were chock full of theology: “Spurgeon’s sermons were virtually an overflowing stream of systematic theology …” Again, the contrast between Spurgeon’s doctrinally rich sermons and the weak content in many American sermons is alarming.

Spurgeon was not bashful about confronting his Arminian brothers. Nettles notes, “He loved Arminians as sincere persons and loved the emphasis on Christ that they shared in common with him, but he truly abominated the distinctive elements of their doctrine … The Arminian attempt to tame God, in Spurgeon’s view, created an idol unworthy of respect and adoration.” Spurgeon counted his Arminian friends as brothers and sisters but did not hesitate to remind them of their theological error.

Spurgeon did not equivocate when it came to controversial doctrines. He preached about a fiery hell and the almighty wrath of God. He preached about election and predestination. And he preached about a Christ who paid for the sins of everyone who would ever believe. He opined, “I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.”

Biblical authority, theological depth, and doctrinal precision marked the life and ministry of C.H. Spurgeon. Compromise was not a part of his makeup. Fidelity to the truth was at the core of his pastoral identity.

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.