Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forgetting Spurgeon all over again

In 1966 Iain H. Murray's book The Forgotten Spurgeon was published by the Banner of Truth Trust. On the back of the book the blurb reads:

"This book seeks to throw light on the reasons which have given rise to the superficial image of Spurgeon as a genial Victorian pulpiteer, a kind of grandfather of modern evangelicalism."

Murray's chapter titles are highly suggestive: 'Arminianism against Scripture', 'Arminianism and Evangelism' stand out in particular. What was forgotten about Spurgeon, Murray says, is his Calvinism. A modern, 'non-doctrinal' evangelicalism is uncomfortable with a man like Spurgeon, who believed a decided doctrine, and a doctrine that is so opposed to the man-centred theology of free-will, a theology that is quite acceptable to the natural man.

Yet Spurgeon is forgotten again. Modern free-willer Baptists, trying to shore up their ahistorical claims that their position is 'the Baptist position', claim Spurgeon for themselves, either ignorant of his true position or, what is worse, they know the truth and choose to pretend that the reverse is true. Yes, Spurgeon opposed hyper-calvinism, but he opposed it as a distortion of true Calvinism, which he held to be the teaching of the Bible.
Spurgeon's Gospel preaching presupposed two things - the total depravity and inability of human nature, and the sovereign power of God to work through the Word preached. That is to say, if Spurgeon called on his congregation and readers to repent and believe the Gospel, he did not call on them to do this because they had the ability to do so in themselves naturally, but because he believed the Holy Spirit was able to regenerate them (we know this statement will give free-willers all kinds of fits, but it happens to be true). Spurgeon liked to quote Dr. Isaac Watts:
Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room;
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?

'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.

I hope that any free-willers were paying attention to those words. "But love doesn't force!" Really? The love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, does not compel us? You see, this is what effectual calling is, it is that God draws us, not by force (except poetically speaking), but by the sweet, strong and irresistible motions of His love. What, when the Holy Spirit teaches me that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me, can I do anything but fall at His feet in wonder, love and praise? No! as God says to His people: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee, "No man can come unto me unless the Father which hath sent me draw Him, and all that the FAther hath given me shall come unto me."

Again, I point back to 'All of Grace', Spurgeon's little Gospel presentation book. This is a book that is such a contrast to free-will preaching today that the reader will feel as if he has gone from marshmallow to 70% cocoa dark chocolate, it is so rich.
I have no objection to non-Calvinists quoting Spurgeon. I often quote John Wesley myself, and the only reason I was able to quote Adam Clarke in an earlier post is that I consult his commentary. But please, I would never dream of making Adam Clarke or either of the Wesleys Calvinists. Honour Calvin as I honour those men - don't pretend that he held a theology different from the one he really did hold.

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