Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892, London, ministry began 1854.

See for everything Charles Spurgeon.

The last well known and perhaps the greatest of the pre-twentieth century reformation preachers, he was a Baptist by career and association for most of his life.

By age 20 he was the most popular preacher in London. He preached to ten thousand people on a regular basis.

Spurgeon for most of his life preached unity within the church, but near the end he resigned his association with the Baptist convention, acusing them of heresy, watering down the word, unitarian beliefs, higher criticism, and failing to police themselves and to remove the heretics from among themselves.

He published a series of articles (written by Robert Shindler) called the "Down-Grade". The imagery was that of sliding downhill on a slippery slope, Shindler observed that all denominations gradually become polluted with false doctrine. He laid the blame primarily at the feet of the church leaders.

A few months later Spurgeon himself wrote on the controversy, and thus embroiled in it he remained the focal point of it for the duration.

Spurgeon was a five-point Calvinist. He taught TULIP in its fulness.

Here, John MacArthur comments on the downgrade controversy:

He opposed infant baptism, and disparaged it as paedobaptism. He was one of the first major figures in church history (besides the anabaptists) that taught this view and it is the other major controversy he is remembered for.

He preached that both predestination and (limited) free-will were simultaneously in full force. He believed that in the end that salvation was wholly of God from start to finish, and yet God secures the complete cooperation of our wills in so-doing. He decried both antinomianism and fatalism (only predestination) and Arminianism (only free will) and said that anyone who denied either of these two truths was engaged in heresy.

He openly called both heresy. I tend to agree. I really like what this guy says since I had come to the same conclusions myself.

But he said something that confused me for a long time and said that John Wesley (a famous Arminian) was a man of God, yes he disagreed with him, but he said he had great respect for the man.

The best explanation I can come up for this is that Arminians are confused about how they came to Christ, but their definition of the atonement, and who Christ is is accurate, as is their view of sanctification (no striving by works), so it is possible Biblically to admit that Arminians are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It took me a lot of thought to get here however as at first glance I thought a heretical viewpoint always produces heretics who aren't saved.

The message I heard was that Arminians might be on the the right side of the line, but just barely, just a little more confused thinking about other related issues and the line is easily crossed. You don't have to get the finer points of theology to be saved, but certain basics are required and Arminianism appears to pass the test, barely, and only if you are willing admit that a faulty view of the atonment is not sufficient to block salvation.

Spurgeon clearly articulated that those who hold to Arminianism are on dangerous ground, ready to swallow more false doctrines until their ship sinks. Sadly, Arminianism is the majority viewpoint in today's professing Christian denominations. I think that Spurgeon would be comforted however to know of today's resurgence of Calvinistic thinking in the Southern Baptist denomination (a historical descendent of his own denomination).

As time passes I realize that Spurgeon is essentially spouting double-speak, the definition of heresy is a soul-destroying perversion of either the Gospel or the nature of God. There is no such thing as a heresy that doesn't kill. Therefore, to be technically accurate, if you believe an Arminian can be a Christian, then to you, Arminianism is not heresy. However, many Arminians of today have swallowed enough other false doctrines to sink their ships so there is no need to argue about Arminianism. I for example was such a one. Spurgeon is consistent with most of his forebears however, including Augustine, who first faced a theology similar to Arminianism, and dealt with it as one would to a brother in Christ, and not as one would deal with a heretic who is outside the body.

I was not originally convinced by Spurgeon's arguments for the partial atonement, His case was that they can't all be a blood bought, atoned for people, who then inexplicably still go to hell. He admits that disagreement with this doctrine is not heresy. And I believe this is the key point you must grant to Arminianism in order to conclude that they can be saved, thus Spurgeon is consistent. I originally couldn't find any clear scriptures on the subject and so thought this was a contentious doctrine not worth worrying about. I wanted scriptures, more than just a good argument.

Arthur Pink later cleared this up for me, there are plenty of scriptures saying the Shepherd dies for His sheep (John 10:11), that He shall save His people from their sins (Mat 1:21), implying quite strongly "but not the goats". See Pink's writeup on the reconciliation. He has a section on the scope of it that clearly explains it and gives lots of scripture references.

Spurgeon describes his position as one where the doctrine of grace is supreme. In this part of his theology I wholly agree. Arminianism is essentially salvation by works at its core (one work, that of believing God on your own).

eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--

He acuses those who say the doctrine of grace is licentious of being wholly ignorant of the doctrine of grace.

He believes that sound doctrine of grace is the only thing that will truly liberate people from their sins. That the doctrine of grace, far from being licentious, is the key to a righteous and holy life. I believe the concept is that any other doctrine is that of pride and therefore quenches the Spirit and prevents holy living, as we are totally dependent upon God for such things.

The two most major controversies Spurgeon was involved in were the down-grade series and years earlier he came out against regeneration by baptism, the doctrine that says you are born-again at the baptismal font, not when you come to Christ.

Interestingly we now generally accept both of Spurgeon's then controversial teachings. We have seen the down-grade now so often that it is accepted without argument today, although it is a far cry to give lip service to the idea that heresy has a way of creeping in, to seeing church leaders actively work to keep heresy out. We do still have denominations who believe in infant baptism (notably the prebyterians), and that a child who dies baptized will go to heaven and a child who dies unbaptized goes to hell (our Lutheran brothers for example). A study in Covenant Theology is necessary to explain why they believe that, and why it is well within Christian orthodoxy, which is beyond the scope of this document.

Spurgeon also had an interesting (and I believe excellent) attitude about how to treat those he called heretics. He believed in treating them with love and respect. He never named names in public, although he would attack what he saw as false doctrines enthusiastically and unapologetically. There were many back then who advocated keeping so-called heretics out of Church meetings, literally refusing members of other denominations at the door. He decried this as false religion and welcomed all to come to his meetings. Of course he proceeded to trash their theology in no uncertain terms, thus doing his best efforts to save them.

He never had a seminary education, but he had a library of 10,000 books. He was also one of the most prolific authors of all time. The entire sum of his writings would fill a small encyclopedia.

Spurgeon's style was not to debate the truth, as he was convinced of it, rather he testified to the truth (his own description of his approach). This means that he did not give doctrinal discourses very often. His style was to assert the truth rather than to defend it as he believed it needed no defense.