Jeckyll & Hyde Spurgeon

It doesn’t take long to recognize in examining the content of this website that we have an admiration for Charles Spurgeon. While I know some would shudder at our gushing over him, I really have no issues with accepting this torrential admiration of a man whom God used mightily. I have personally read all his sermons and many of his books including several biographies on this prince of preachers. It would be an understatement to say that as a Reformed Baptist that he has had a massive influence on my life. He was a man of incredible depth and he made his life count in never wasting his time with pettiness but always looking on ways to advance the kingdom of Christ. He went to the grave at the age of 57 years of age and left us with several large body of works, a college and an orphanage that are still with us today. I could only wish to have his depth and his courage to stand for the word of God.

I had the pleasure a few years back to read Iain Murray’s theological biography on C.H. Spurgeon called “The Forgotten Spurgeon”.  This is not a new book (1st print 1966) but it has been reprinted on several occasions and I found it to be quite an encouraging volume on many fronts. There are many biographies available on Spurgeon but this one is unique in that it is a biography dealing primarily with Spurgeon’s Calvinism and the controversies that surrounded him. He was a Calvinist to the man and faithful to the word of God to the extent he was flooded with criticism. Some saw the Spurgeon who was calling sinners to Christ, educating new ministers and had a heart for the poor, widows and orphans and the Spurgeon of Calvinism as almost a dual personality, a theological Jekyll & Hyde.  Murray does a fine job in demonstrating that the former was a result of the latter. His view of God’s providence over all things was the foundation behind the works that he undertook during his life. As I mentioned, not everyone saw the link between his orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In the book, Murray quotes men who could write the following of Spurgeon:

When people ask me what I think of Spurgeon, I always ask which Spurgeon- the head or the heart- the Spurgeon of the Tabernacle or the Spurgeon of the Orphanage? The kind of Calvinism which the one occasionally represents I simply hate, as I hate selfishness and blasphemy. It is that leering, slavering, sly-winking Calvinism that says “bless the Lord we are all right, booked straight through to heaven first-class…But when I turn to the Orphanage all is changed. All is beauty. All is love… (The British Weekly, “Open Letter to Spurgeon”, Joseph Parker, April 25, 1890)

Mr. Parker’s comments demonstrate that there is nothing new under the sun as the scripture tells us. We hear this criticism of the doctrines of grace even in our day. Some have even taken to playing the one string banjo in devoting entire ministries to attack these doctrines. Parker is simply reiterating the mindset of those opposed to Calvinism and it’s outcome. But is Parker’s analogy fair? Even while some see the result of Calvinism in the realm of evangelism or an emphasis on a life of Holiness, charity and education, they still see the doctrine and practice as two separate and inconsistent things. The old doctrines, as Spurgeon referred to them, do nothing but encourage us to a higher Christianity. How so? The belief in Calvinism and its view of the Sovereignty of God is the result of a high view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It places an emphasis in preaching a big God and a small man! While sometimes our inclination is to think that it is irrational and many argue it goes against human thinking, the truth is that accepting Calvinism means you accept God for who He really is and man for who he really is. When the bible speaks of man as dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5), that we are, prior to regeneration, captives of the Devil (2 Tim. 2:26), under his power (Acts 26:1; Col. 1:13) and always oppressed by a slavery to him (Acts 10:38) and that our natural inclination is towards sin continuously (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Prov. 21:10), that the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8) and that a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14) that this is precisely true of man. When the bible states of the God of the bible that “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the people; The counsel of the LORD stands forever (Isaiah 33:10-11), that My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. (Isaiah 46:10-11) that we believe that what the bible is true regarding God’s Sovereignty in all things including salvation (Romans 8-9; Eph.1:4-6; 2 Thess. 2:13) If we understand the true anthropological depravity within our world, and we acknowledge God’s active kingship over it, we, as his servants, will interact with it understanding the deep divide between man and God. We will obey the king and establish His name in this world. We will seek with confidence the will of our God and truly love our neighbour through our compassion and care because they are truly depraved. We will show the transforming works of the almighty God to sinful man through doing all these things to the glory of God and sharing with them the transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will do this consistently with our theology!

In other words, we believe what the scriptures say as the very words of the living God (Matthew 22:31; 2 Timothy 3:15-17) We accept the bible as a whole even those texts which make us uncomfortable. When the scriptures tell us to evangelize the world, to feed the hungry, to do justice to the fatherless and to the widow and to present God as the holy and righteous One, we do so with consistency and with conviction. In other words, we take the Word of God seriously and we have a God who is actively sovereign over all who will fulfill all His good pleasure!


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