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 8

1781911223_bChapter 13: Theology and Controversy

“We do not wish to fight; but if we do, we hope that the pity will be needed by those with whom we contend.”  Spurgeon was not one to pick a fight but when truth was on the line, he didn’t back down either.  He bravely battled Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists.  Unlike many modern pastors, refused to pretend a cordial relationship when truth was sacrificed at the altar of relevance: “He would not pretend fellowship with those with whom he disagreed upon vital points of truth.”

The author presents several notable theological controversies that Spurgeon confronted including the Rivulet controversy, his battle with atheistic evolution, and his skirmishes with Plymouth Brethrenism.

Chapter 14: Destroy or Be Destroyed

The author continues the discussion and reveals Spurgeon’s passionate defense of the truth as he stepped into the fray against the Roman Catholic Church.  Spurgeon once remarked, “Showing charity to priests is like showing charity to tigers and rattlesnakes.”

Nettles recounts Spurgeon’s run-in’s with the Church of England.  For instance, he called baptismal regeneration, “a wretched and rotten foundation” and a “deceitful invention of antichrist.”  His repudiation of infant baptism was clear.  He referred to the font as a “mockery.”

Chapter 15: The Downgrade Conflict

The author carefully describes the downgrade conflict, the theological slide which Spurgeon confronted directly and ultimately led him out of the Baptist Union.  Spurgeon painfully notes, “I have cut myself  clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them.”

Little room was left for the imagination to wander when one considered Spurgeon’s position on controversial matters.  He was a man who would not be swayed by theological error.  He was a bastion of truth in an age of compromise.

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.

THE GOSPEL FOCUS OF CHARLES SPURGEON – Steven J. Lawson (2012)

Steven J. Lawson’s latest installment in the Long Line of Godly Men Series is a breathtaking look at the life and legacy of the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 

The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon begins by surveying the short but memorable life of one of the most effective preachers of all time.  Lawson provides a clear summary of Spurgeon’s birth, conversion, entry into pastoral ministry, and some of the controversial waters he was forced to navigate.

The author describes the theological “rebar” that helped shape this unique British pastor.  Most notably, Spurgeon was a five point Calvinist.  He famously said, “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching no new doctrine.   I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by the nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.”  Instead of hiding his theological presuppositions (like many evangelicals today), Spurgeon revealed them clearly, bravely, and decisively.  Doctrine mattered to this man – and doctrine helped drive his ministry; a ministry that would flourish in nineteenth century England.

But Spurgeon was not only a committed Calvinist; he was also convinced of the authority of Scripture.  Indeed, his strong belief in the authoritative Word of God was the central thrust of his pastoral ministry.  Lawson adds, “Spurgeon was thoroughly convinced that in every page of Scripture is found the absolute truth of God.  When the Bible speaks, Spurgeon believed, God speaks.”  His confidence in Scripture was manifest in his preaching ministry; a ministry that has touched and continues to influence literally millions of lives.

Perhaps the most helpful section of the book is Dr. Lawson’s discussion of Spurgeon’s commitment to the doctrines of grace.   The author carefully describes the five pillars that emerge in Spurgeon’s theological infrastructure:

1. Total Depravity

2. Unconditional Election

3. Definite Atonement

4. Irresistable Grace

5. Preserving Grace

Spurgeon notes, “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.”  And this gospel did in fact thunder throughout England.  This same gospel must be preached from pulpits in America!

Dr. Lawson rightly portrays Spurgeon as a pastor who was deeply committed to evangelism.  He carefully forged a path between the grievous errors of Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism and paid a steep price for his convictions.  But the primary take-away is his love for the gospel and his heart for sinners.

The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon is a much-needed antidote in a church that downplays theology and especially has a nasty habit of misrepresenting historic Reformed theology.  It reminds pastors of the need for courage and conviction.  It reminds pastors to stand for the truth no matter what the cost.  It is a rebuke to the tepid theology that is being promoted in many American pulpits.  Here is a book that pastors need to read and digest.  It is time to open the Book and preach with the passion and fervor of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

5 stars