Site Meter
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|

Charles Spurgeon

(49 posts)

Wanted: Luthers & Calvins

Monday··2007·10·29 · 3 Comments
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gift of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is one more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the alter, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land. . . . I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to receive and bless His churches. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Reformation Trust, 2007), 132–133.

“Born Again”

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. —John 3:3 The term born again has become popular. Surveys show that the majority of Americans consider themselves to be born again, by which they mean that they have had some spiritual experience. But for many, there has been no real change in their lives. When it comes to issues such as sexual sin, their conduct in marriage, their use of time and money, and their life ambitions, a great many so-called “born-again” people are no different than non-Christians. This is a problem because, according to the Bible, if we have not been changed, we have not been born again, regardless of any spiritual experiences we think we have had. To be born again, Paul said, is to be “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). If our witness of the gospel is to be true and accurate, then we must present people with this reality. . . . Sinclair Ferguson tells of a young man who came to church and eventually was converted. He told an elder: “I can’t believe how much this church has changed within the last few weeks. The hymns are so lively now. The worship is so wonderfully meaningful. Why, even the preacher is better!” have you experienced something like that? Spurgeon asks, “Do you feel [that] . . . now you love God, now you seek to please him, now spiritual realities are realities to you, now the blood of Jesus is your only trust, now you desire to be made holy, even as God is holy? If there is such new life as that in you, however feeble it may be, though it is only like the life of a new-born child, you are born again, and you may rejoice in that blessed fact. Jesus’ teaching that the new birth is revealed in its effects not only challenges us to examine ourselves for such evidences, it encourages us in our weakness and gives us hope about what the future holds for us. The Holy Spirit’s work does not end with the new birth—having made us alive, He goes on to bring us more and more to life, working in us the life of God and molding our character into Christlikeness. The new birth is the beginning of a lifelong process of spiritual animation and growth, and is the pledge of glorious things yet to come. How wonderful that Christians are no longer what we once were, but how wonderful it also is that we someday will become what we are not yet. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 66, 67.

Dumb Things I have Believed: Me & My Bible

Monday··2008·06·02 · 2 Comments
Not long after I was saved, I attended a Lutheran Bible school. With typical new-believer zeal, I soon became convinced that I should pursue vocational ministry. With typical young-man impudence, I had my own ideas on how that should be done. I knew that, in order to be recognized and accepted, I would have to go to college and seminary (I sometimes called it “cemetery”); but that was just a formality, necessary to appease the establishment. All a man really needed, I thought, was his Bible and the Holy Spirit. If a man just knew his Bible inside and out, and was filled with the Holy Spirit, what more could he need? Seminary was a place where men filled their heads with the philosophies of men. I definitely didn’t want that. Of course, it was alright if I chose some books to read on my own. That was different. What I certainly did not need, however, was Bible commentaries or systematic theologies. I didn’t need men to tell me what the Bible meant. That was the Holy Spirit’s job. At some point in my journey, I heard of a guy named Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon never went to college or seminary. I didn’t know anything about Spurgeon, except that he was a famous preacher, admired by many. What did he have that I didn’t have? Well, Spurgeon had many things that I didn’t have, including unique gifting and a massive intellect. More importantly, he had the humility to know that he needed more than his Bible and the Holy Spirit. At a time when books were not the cheap commodity they are today, Spurgeon’s personal library contained some 12,000 books, including commentaries. Spurgeon possessed no degrees, but he was far from uneducated. He clearly saw the need to learn from other men. As he put it, It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. —Commenting and Commentaries The Lord was gracious to lead me away from that kind of thinking. One of the ways he did that was to put me in contact with other men who had the same attitude as I, and let me see the depth of their ministries. There was no depth. Their theology was immature and shallow. They tended to ride hobby-horses, and be easily taken in by the odd doctrines of other uneducated men. They often fashioned their own strange beliefs from small portions of Scripture isolated from the whole of God’s Word. They were completely ignorant of basic hermeneutics. In contrast to those men, the teachers that I admired and hoped to emulate were well educated formally or at least, like Spurgeon, were voracious readers and diligent students. I was not pleased to find myself in the first group. I saw the fruit of both philosophies, and knew which kind I wanted to produce. This is really a matter of humility, isn’t it? “Just me and God” says “No man is my superior. I am equal to all those who have gone before me.” In fact, it says more than that. It says that I am their superior. They learned from others, but I can do it on my own. How foolish. We all need teachers; it is few of us who will ever become their equals, and fewer still who will exceed their knowledge, skill, and wisdom. The Lord never did lead me into any vocational ministry, and graciously prevented me from getting there my own way. Nevertheless, I am grateful for this lesson. I am so glad that I learned to learn from others.

Psalm 1: The Blessed Man

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the " />counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. The Psalm begins with a description of the general state of the righteous: blessed. Thomas Watson wrote, “This Psalm carries blessedness in the frontispiece; it begins where we all hope to end . . .” Now, one might think that this blessedness is consequential to the traits of the righteous described in the verses that follow. Certainly, there are benefits that proceed from godly living; but I think it is better to see those traits as the blessings themselves. To see righteousness as the cause of blessedness is to forget that the only righteousness we possess is a righteousness that is not our own. The Psalm then contrasts the righteous and the wicked. The wicked and righteous are separated, first ethically, and then judicially.* Ethical Separation The Righteous The righteous man does not keep company with the wicked. This is not to say that he has no association with them. It is to say that he does not look to them for wisdom (walk in the counsel), and that they are not his friends. He may be a friend, to them, in the same sense that Jesus was called a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34), but he does not look to them for friendship (James 4:4). “Walk,” “sit,” “stand” may be seen as a progression from casual friendship to finally settling in and becoming one of them. The righteous man delights in God’s law. This is not to say that he is legalistically obsessed with rules and regulations. He simply loves God and wants to know him. He is driven by a desire to know God, and takes great pleasure in knowing and pleasing him. He loves God and his Word so much that it is always on his mind (meditates day and night). The righteous man is planted. He did not spring up wild, or of his own accord. He was intentionally planted, and nourished by streams of water. He will not be moved, and he will receive all the nourishment he needs for healthy life and growth. Consequently, he will bear the fruit that is expected (in its season) of a healthy, thriving tree. We are also reminded that the “streams of water” supplied by our Lord are “living water.” Like the living water promised by Jesus (John 4:7–14; 7:37–38), its effect is permanently life-giving’’its leaf does not wither.” The result is that “in whatever he does, he prospers.” This is not a reference to anything so superficial as physical or material health and prosperity. Success for the Christian is measured by one result only: that he bears good fruit and so displays the glory of God. The Wicked The wicked are not so. After nine lines describing the righteous and his fruit, the poet emphasizes the stark contrast between the righteous and the wicked by describing the wicked in only two. Theologians often define sins into two categories, sins of commission, and sins of omission. These are useful categories, but here we are reminded that all sins are sins of omission. All sin is simply not being righteous, or, as Question 14 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” So after a more lengthy description of the righteous, it is enough to state simply, “The wicked are not so.” Consequently, while the righteous “yields fruit,” “does not wither,” and “prospers,” the wicked “are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” Chaff is the husks of grain, bits of straw, and other debris that survive the initial harvesting process. But it is not grain, which contains the germ of life. It is dead and useless, and is blown away during the grain cleaning process, to go back into the ground and rot. Judicial Separation The Wicked The wicked will not stand in the judgment. The wicked will be judged. Their true character, which is not always discernible to us, is never hidden from God. It will will be brought to light, and a “guilty” verdict will be rendered. Sinners will not stand in the congregation of the righteous. the wicked will be separated from the righteous. Matthew 13, Parable of the Wheat and Tares 24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” The way of the wicked will perish. They will be burned as the tares in the preceding parable. The Righteous The Lord knows the way of the righteous. This time, it is the righteous of whom little is said, only one line for three describing the fate of the wicked. But it is not really so little. “The Lord knows” is a phrase that is loaded with meaning. Being “known” by the Lord indicates a relationship of profound intimacy, love, and trust. It signifies sonship, having been adopted and made a joint heir with Jesus to eternal life. Being known by the Lord makes all the difference. There are no more fearful words than the sentence “I never knew you” from the mouth of Jesus. * Outline adapted from the MacArthur Study Bible.

Settled in Heaven

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.                  Psalm 119:89 It seems, these days, that there is not a lot we can count on. The stock market is down, our investments are failing, and the (American) President and Congress seem intent on making sure our economy is entirely devastated. We can no longer count on the Constitution to protect us from tyranny. Marriages are failing and families are falling apart all around us. The very definition of family can no longer be assumed. The (nominal) Church makes little pretense any more of believing the God of the Bible. In spite of the bleak circumstances in which we live, we have a sure foundation that will not fail. C. H. Spurgeon wrote,    For ever, Oh Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. The strain is more joyful, for experience has given the sweet singer a comfortable knowledge of the word of the Lord, and this makes a glad theme. After tossing about on the sea of trouble the Psalmist here leaps to shore and stands upon a rock. Jehovahs word is not fickle nor uncertain; it is settled, determined, fixed, sure, immovable. Mans teachings change so often that there is never time for them to be settled; but the Lords word is from of old the same, and will remain unchanged eternally. Some men are never happier than when they are unsettling everything and everybody; but Gods mind is not with them. The power and glory of heaven have confirmed each sentence which the mouth of the Lord has spoken, and so confirmed it that to all eternity it must stand the same,settled in heaven, where nothing can reach it. In the former section Davids soul fainted, but here the good man looks out of self and perceives that the Lord fainteth not, neither is weary, neither is there any failure in his word. The verse takes the form of an ascription of praise: the faithfulness and immutability of God are fit themes for holy song, and when we are tired with gazing upon the shifting scene of this life, the thought of the immutable promise fills our mouth with singing. Gods purposes, promises, and precepts are all settled in his own mind, and none of them shall be disturbed. Covenant settlements will not be removed, however unsettled the thoughts of men may become; lets us therefore settle it in our minds that we abide in the faith of our Jehovah as long as we have any being. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988), 3:314. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.                            Isaiah 40:8

The Light-Giving Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.                 Psalm 119:105 Proverbs 4:19 reads, The way of the wicked is like darkness; / They do not know over what they stumble. But we have the lamp of Gods Word to illumine our way. Spurgeon wrote:    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way and what lies in it. When darkness settles down upon all around me, the word of the Lord, like a flaming torch, reveals my way. Having no fixed lamps in eastern towns, in old time each passenger carried a lantern that he might not fall into one of the open sewers or stumble over heaps of ordure which defiled the road. This is a true picture of our path through this dark world; we should not know the way, or how to walk in it, if the Scripture, like a blazing flambeau, did not reveal it. One of the most practical benefits of Holy Writ is guidance in the acts of daily life; it is not sent to astound us with its brilliance, but to guide us by its instruction. It is true the head needs illumination, but even more the feet need direction, else head and feet may both fall into a ditch. Happy is the man who personally appropriates Gods Word, and practically uses it as his comfort and counsellor,a lamp to his own feet. And a light unto my path. It is a lamp by night, a light by day, and a delight at all times. David guided his own steps by it, and also saw the difficulties of his road by its beams. He who walks in darkness is sure, sooner or later, to stumble; while he who walks by the light of day, or by the lamp of night, stumbleth not, but keeps his uprightness. Ignorance is painful on practical subjects; it breeds indecision and suspense, and these are uncomfortable: the word of God, by imparting heavenly knowledge, leads to decision, and when that is followed by determined resolution, as in this case, it brings with it great restfulness of heart. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988), 3:342.

Founded Forever

Of old I have known from Your testimonies That You have founded them forever.                         Psalm 119:152 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word.                         John Rippon, 1787 It is the blessed privilege of all believers to rest in the knowledge of the promises God has given in his Word. His promises are everlasting promises that cannot fail.    Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever. David found of old that God had founded them of old, and that they would stand firm thorough all ages. It is a very blessed thing to be so early taught of God that we know substantial doctrines even from our youth. Those who think that David was a young man when he wrote this Psalm will find it rather difficult to reconcile this verse with the theory; it is much more probable that he was now grown grey, and was looking back upon what he had known long before. He knew at the very first that the doctrines of Gods Word were settled before earth world began, that they had never altered, and never could by any possibility be altered. He had begun by building on a rock, by seeing that Gods testimonies were founded, that is, grounded, laid as foundations, settled and established; and that with a view to all the ages that should come, during all the changes that should intervene. It was because David knew this that he had such confidence in prayer, and was so importunate it in. It is sweet to plead immutable promises with an immutable God. Is was because of this that David learned to hope: a confidence in a God who cannot change. It was because of this that he delighted in being near the Lord, for it is a most blessed thing to keep up close intercourse with a Friend who never varies. Let those who choose follow at the heels of the modern school and look for fresh light to break forth which well put the old light out of countenance; we are satisfied with the truth which is old as the hills and as fixed as the great mountains. Let cultured intellects invent another god, more gentle and effeminate that the God of Abraham; we are well content to worship Jehovah, who is eternally the same. Things everlastingly established are the joy of established saints. Bubbles please boys, but men prize those things which are solid and substantial, with a foundation and a bottom to them which will bear the test of ages. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988), 3:403404.

The Word Magnified

I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. Psalm 138:2 A word of encouragement from Spurgeon for all of us bibliolaters. The word of promise made to David was in his eyes more glorious than all else that he had seen of the Most High. Revelation excels creation in the clearness, definiteness and fullness of its teaching. The name of the Lord in nature is not so easily read as in the Scriptures, which are a revelation in human language, specially adapted to the human mind, treating of human need, and of a Saviour who appeared in human nature to redeem humanity. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the divine word will not pass away, and in this respect especially it has a pre-eminence over every other form of manifestation. Moreover, the Lord lays all the rest of his name under tribute to his word: his wisdom, power, love, and all his other attributes combine to carry out his word. It is his word which creates, sustains, quickens, enlightens, and comforts. As a word of command it is supreme; and in the person of the incarnate Word it is set above all the works of Gods hands. The sentence in the text is wonderfully full of meaning. . . . Let us adore the Lord who has spoken to us by his word, and by his son; and in the presence of unbelievers let us both praise his holy name and extol his holy word. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988), 3:244245.

Meek and Bold

Spurgeon on the unhesitatingly confrontational character of Christ: Brethren, the Savior’s character has all goodness and all perfection; he is full of grace and truth. Some men, nowaday, talk of him as if he were simply incarnate benevolence. It is not so. No lips ever spoke with such thundering indignation against sin as the lips of the Messiah. “He is like a refiner’s fire, and like a fuller’s soap. His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor.” while in tenderness he prays for his tempted disciple, that his faith may not fail, yet with awful sternness he winnows the heap, and drives away the chaff into unquenchable fire. We speak of Christ as being meek and lowly in spirit, and so he was. A bruised reed he did not break, and the smoking flax he did not quench; but his meekness was balanced by his courage, and by the boldness with which he denounced hypocrisy. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, ye fools and blind, ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” These are not words of the milksop some authors represent Christ to have been. He is a man—a thorough man throughout—a God-like man—gentle as a woman, but yet stern as a warrior in the midst of the day of battle. The character is balanced; as much of one virtue as another. As in Deity every attribute is full orbed; justice never eclipses mercy, nor mercy justice, nor justice faithfulness; so in the character of Christ you have all the excellent things. —Charles Spurgeon, “Sweet Saviour,” cited in John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 99.

This one book

It is with great pleasure, as usual, that I pick up another Iain Murray volume from Banner of Truth. This one, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, is different from the others Ive read in a couple of ways. First, its a paperback. (I pause here to direct a frown in the Banners direction. It was never published in hardcover, so I couldnt even track down a used copy, as I often do, and I can’t set it next to my cloth-bound Murray volumes on the shelf.) Second, it turns our critical eye one hundred and eighty degrees from its usual orientation, away from the Arminians, and toward the hyper-Calvinists. Murray begins with a little biographical information, and comments on the remarkable scope of Spurgeons influence. Spurgeons preaching ministry in London spanned thirty-seven years, from 18541891. During that time, If we take into account [Murray writes] both his spoken and written words, it is estimated that each weak his congregation amounted to about a million people. Beginning in 1855, his sermons were published weekly, and also compiled in annually, the 63rd and final volume published twenty-five years posthumously. And that was just his preaching. In addition, he published about 50 other works and edited 28 volumes of The Sword and Trowel. His publishers, Passmore and Alabaster, were kept busyand in businesswith publishing Spurgeons works alone. Murray writes:    The obvious question is, how could any man retain such influence over so many people through such a long period? How can we account for the enduring interest? How could a man speak so often, and write so much, without losing his freshness and his appeal? It is true Spurgeon possessed unusual gifts, and that he worked very hard, but we cannot get anywhere near the real answer if we think merely in terms of what he was or did. The explanation lies in the Book that was in his hands, the Book that was his constant companion, and which he lived to preach and study. All the blessing he attributed to that source. His own thoughts, his own opinions, would have achieved nothing: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; nothing else but the living Word of God will convince, convert, renew and sanctify. He has promised that this shall not return unto him void; but He has made no such promise to the wisdom of men, or the excellency of human speech. The Spirit of God works with the Word of God . . . All his paths drop fatness; but mans paths are barrenness. In possessing the Bible Spurgeon believed that the church has an inexhaustible source of light and heat. What he said once of John Bunyan could be equally said of himself, Prick him anywhere and his bloodline is bibline. The content of his sermons and his books is plain, you might say, ordinary, Scripture. The energy of his prayerful adherence to Scripture is the true explanation of his work: The Bible is a wonderful book . . . You can use it for a lamp at night. You can use it for a screen by day. It is a universal book; it is the Book of books, and has furnished material for mountains of books; it is made of what I call bibline, or the essence of books . . . This one book is enough to last a man throughout the whole of his life, however diligently he may study it. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 1213.

Public Honor, Private Flogging

Throughout most of Spurgeons ministry, both he and his wife suffered greatly with ill health. But rather than remonstrate bitterly with God, he recognized trials as a necessary part of his sanctification, and as a part of fitting him for ministry. As Iain Murray writes, Spurgeon believed that without without difficulties, he would have been ruined. Fallen men, though Christians, cannot long be surrounded by popularity and success without the special help of God. Our God takes care always to have the security that, if He works a great work by us, we shall not appropriate the glory of it to ourselves. He brings us down lower and lower in our own esteem . . . Some trumpets are so stuffed with self that God cannot blow through them. You may rest quite certain that, if God honors any man in public, he takes him aside privately, and flogs him well, otherwise he would get elevated and proud, and God will not have that. Many a man has been elevated until his brain has grown dizzy, and he has fallen to his destruction. He who is to be made to stand securely in a high place has need to be put through sharp affliction. More men are destroyed by prosperity and success than by affliction and apparent failure. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 1718.

Read, write, print, shout!

At the end of his notes on John 6:3, Charles Spurgeon wrote the following comment: Read, write, print, shout, Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. Great Saviour, I thank Thee for this text; help Thou me so to preach from it that many may come to Thee, and find eternal life! Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 50.

Universal Invitation

Iain Murray presents four reasons for Spurgeons vehement opposition to Hyper-Calvinism. The first is the universal invitation of the gospel, which the Hyper-Calvinists denied and assiduously avoided. Spurgeon believed that historic evangelicalism differed from Hyper-Calvinism over the persons to whom the promises of the gospel are to be preached. Hyper-Calvinism views gospel preaching solely as a means for the ingathering of Gods elect. It argues that such words as, Trust in Christ and you will be saved, should only be addressed to elect sinners for it is their salvation alone which the preacher should have in view. For a preacher to convey to his hearers the impression that they are all called to receive Christ, and to believe in him for salvation, is to deny, in the opinion of Hyper-Calvinists, the sovereignty of divine grace. It is to represent salvation as available to those whom God has excluded by the decree of election. Gospel preaching for Hyper-Calvinists means a declaration of the facts of the gospel but nothing should be said by way of encouraging individuals to believe that the promises of Christ are made to them particularly until there is evidence that the Spirit of God has begun a saving work in their hearts, convicting them and making them sensible of their need. Spurgeon rejected the placing of such a restriction upon the invitation of the gospel. The gospel is good news which God would have proclaimed throughout the world and to every creature. Its message is not simply a statement of facts. It also contains clear, unrestricted general promises, such as, He that believeth on him is not condemned (John 3:18); Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13); Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17). So the preacher has not done his work when he has spoken of Christ and proclaimed the historic facts of salvation. From there he must go on to urge the reception of Christ upon all men. In the name of God he must assure all of the certainty of their welcome and forgiveness on their repentance and faith. Thus Paul said to all his hearers at Antioch in Pisidia: Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:389). The apostle evidently knew of no limitations. Christ was to be preached, warning every manany one, every oneand teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:28). Words could scarcely be more embracing and individual. Hyper-Calvinists argued that gospel promises and invitations cannot be made universal because saving grace is special and particular. Spurgeon replied by asserting that the language of Scripture can be given no other meaning. In a sermon entitled Apostolic Exhortation, on Peters words to all his hearers, Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19), he says:    Peter preached the Christ of the gospelpreached it personally and directly at the crowd who were gathered around him . . . Grown up among us is a school of men who say that they rightly preach the gospel to sinners when they merely deliver statements of what the gospel is, and the result of dying unsaved, but they grow furious and talk of unsoundness if any venture to say to the sinner, Believe, or Repent. To this school Peter did not belonginto their secret he had never come, and with their assembly, were he alive now, he would not be joined. In another sermon he refers to brethren who do not think it to be their duty to go into the highways and hedges and bid all, as many as they find, to come to the supper. Oh, no! They are too orthodox to obey the Masters will; they desire to understand first who are appointed to come to the supper, and then they will invite them; that is to say, they will do what there is no necessity to do [i.e., present the gospel to those who are already saved]. In contrast with this, the apostles delivered the gospel, the same gospel to the dead as to the living, the same gospel to the non-elect as to the elect. The point of distinction not in the gospel, but in its being applied by the Holy Ghost, or left to be rejected of man. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 6971.

The Warrant of Faith

Wednesday··2009·12·02 · 1 Comments
Last week, I began looking at four reasons why Spurgeon rejected Hyper-Calvinism. The first was the universal invitation of the gospel, denied by the Hyper-Calvinists. The second is that it turned individuals away from their only sure warrant for trusting in Christ, namely, the objective commands and invitations of the gospel. Hyper-Calvinism denies such a universal warrant, applicable to all, and claims, instead, that Scripture only addresses invitations to specific peopleto the penitent, the heavy laden, to the convicted, to the sensible sinner and so on. Under such preaching, gospel hearers must first find some warrant within themselves for thinking that Christs invitations are addressed to them personally. Subjective experience is thus made a kind of necessary preliminary and qualification before anyone can trust in scriptural promises. Against this, Spurgeon held that the scriptural warrant for the unconverted to trust in Christ rests on nothing in themselves; the warrant lies in the invitation of Christ. His entire presentation of the gospel turned on the truth that no sinner has any more warrant than any other for trusting in Christ. The warrant lies in Scripture alone. Before a man has any willingness to be saved, it is his duty to believe in Christ, for it is not mans willingness that gives him a right to believe. Men are to believe in obedience to Gods command. God commandeth all men everywhere to repent, and this is his great command, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Christs ambassadors are authorised to call on all people of every clime and kindred, to believe the gospel with a promise of personal salvation to each and every one that believes. The message is not, Wait for feelings, it is, Believe and live. I find Jesus Christ says nothing to sinners about waiting, but very much about coming. To this the Hyper-Calvinists replied that if all are called to trust in Christ then such trust must involve them in believing a falsehood because Christ has not died for all. In their view, to preach a universal warrant is to deny that redemption is definite and particular. This was a further ground for charging Spurgeon with inconsistency, for he believed in particular redemption and yet summoned all to believe in Christ. But Spurgeon, along with Scripture, did not make, Believe that Christ died for you, part of faith to which the unbeliever is summoned. The call to the sinner is to commit himself to Christ, not because he has been saved but rather because he is lost and must come to Jesus in order to be saved. . . . To deny a universal warrant, and to require subjective experiences before Christ is trusted, is bound to lead to confusion and legality. Such teaching makes men look at themselves instead of the Saviour. It leads people to suppose that possessing a broken heart and feeling the burden of sin are some kind of qualification for believing. But this is to require a discernment on the part of would-be converts for which Scripture does not ask. The truth is that individuals under conviction are unable to understand themselves and it is common for those who are most burdened to fear that they have no true sense of sin at all. The Holy Spirit is indeed given to convict of sin but Scripture says nothing about him assuring the convicted of their convictions prior to faith. On this Spurgeon says in the same sermon on The Warrant of Faith:    I believe the tendency of that preaching which puts the warrant for faith anywhere but in the gospel command, is to vex the true penitent, and to console the hypocrite; the tendency of it is to make the poor soul which really repents, feel that he must not believe in Christ, because he sees so much of his own hardness of heart. The more spiritual a man is, the more unspiritual he see himself to be . . . Often the most penitent men are those who think themselves the most impenitent.    If we begin to preach to sinners that they must have a certain sense of sin and a certain measure of conviction, such teaching would turn the sinner away from God in Christ to himself. The man begins at once to say, Have I a broken heart? Do I feel the burden of sin? This is only another form of looking at self. Man must not look to himself to find reasons for Gods grace. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 7174, 7778.

Spurgeon on Human Responsibility

The third reason given by Murray for Spurgeons rejection of Hyper-Calvinism was the denial of human responsibility. Spurgeon regarded an emphasis on mans free-agency as absolutely essential to true evangelism. Because Scripture teaches that conversion is the work of God, Hyper-Calvinism fears to appeal for human action lest it interferes with God. But Scripture also presents conversion as the work of man and recognizes no inconsistency in calling upon men to be reconciled to God. Because it does not recognize this, Hyper-Calvinism fails to tell the unconverted that it is heir fault alone if they remain unsaved under the gospel and that their damnation will be their own work. Not only is faith in Christ a duty, but as Spurgeon often showed from Scripture, a refusal to believe on Christ will be found at last o be a greater offence than the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Is it not the very summit of arrogance and the height of pride for a son of Adam to say, even in his heart, God, I doubt thy grace; God, I doubt Thy love; God, I doubt Thy power? I feel that, could we roll all sins into one mass,could we take murder, blasphemy, lust, adultery, fornication, and everything that is vile, and unite them all into one vast globe of black corruption,they would not even then equal the sin of unbelief.      In his autobiography Spurgeon reports how in his early days, before he came to London, he found himself with some ministers and others of Hyper-Calvinistic views who were disputing whether it was a sin in men that they did not believe the gospel. The shock he felt on that occasion was to remain with him all his days: Whilst they were discussing, I said, Gentlemen, am I in the presence of Christians? Are you believers in the Bible or are you not? They said, We are Christians, of course. Then, said I, does not the Scripture say, of sin, because they believe not on Me? And is it not the damning sin of men, that they do not believe on Christ?      Spurgeon used this incident in the second sermon of the first volume of the New Park Street Pulpit, entitled The Sin of Unbelief, and, as we have seen, much of the contention of Hyper-Calvinism against his preaching concerned this point. I hold, he says, as firmly as any man living, that repentance and conversion are the work of the Holy Spirit, but I would sooner lose this hand, and both, than I would give up preaching that it is the duty of men to repent and believe and that it is the duty of Christian ministers to say to them, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.      Spurgeon frequently spoke against Hyper-Calvinism in his sermons. He did so at some length in an Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace at the time of the opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861 when he forcefully repudiated any idea of fatalism and insisted, If he be lost, damnation is all of man; but, if he be saved, still salvation is all of God. God did not make men to be damned but, as Spurgeon showed from the Westminster Assemblys Larger Catechism, wrath is only inflicted on men on account of sin: This is no more than what the Methodist and all other Evangelical bodies acknowledgethat where men perish it is in consequence of their sin.      In his Preface to the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit for 1863 he made what was possibly the last of his open appeals to those whom he describes as led captive by ultra-calvinistic theories, calling upon them to preach the whole gospel, instead of a part: Divine sovereignty is a great and indisputable fact, but human responsibility is quite as indisputable . . . Faith is Gods gift, but it is also the act of renewed manhood. Damnation is the result of justice, not of arbitrary predestination. O that the time were come when seeming opposites would be received, because faith knows that they are portions of one harmonious whole. Would that an enlarged view of the dispensations of God to man would permit men to be faithful to the human race, and at the same time true to the Sovereign Lord of all. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 8487.

The Universal Love of God

Spurgeon, contra Hyper-Calvinism, believed in the universal love of God for all men. He also believed, contra Arminianism, in the particular electing love of God for his chosen bride. From what [Spurgeon taught] on the universal love of God, Hyper-Calvinists deduced that Spurgeon did not believe in a special electing love which secures the salvation of all those for whom Christ died. Sometimes Christians of Arminian persuasion, with a superficial knowledge of Spurgeon, have reached the same conclusion on Spurgeon’s position. But this is the same mistake as can be made in reading the Bible itself. All references to divine love in Scripture are not to be interpreted as universal (Arminianism), neither are they all to be made particular (Hyper-Calvinism). There is a differentiation observable in Scripture. In speaking to Christians Spurgeon would often make the difference clear: ‘Beloved, the benevolent love of Jesus is more extended than the lines of his electing love . . . That [i.e. the love revealed in Matthew 23:37] is not the love which beams resplendently upon his chosen, but it is true love for all that.’ God’s special love ‘is not love for all men . . . There is an electing, discriminating, distinguishing love, which is settled upon a chosen people . . . and it is this love which is the true resting place for the saint.’ Arminianism, by making universal benevolence the only love revealed in Scripture, denies the sovereignty of grace and leads men to suppose that God had to make salvation equally available to all. Hyper-Calvinism, on the other hand, denies, in the words of John Murray, ‘that there is a love of God that goes forth to lost men and is manifested in the manifold blessings which all men without distinction enjoy, a love in which non-elect persons are embraced, and a love that comes to its highest expression in the entreaties, overtures and demands of gospel proclamation.’ While holding firmly to these important theological distinctions, Spurgeon did not believe that they were ones which had necessarily to be introduced in presenting the gospel to the unconverted and he warned against the kind of preaching which appears more concerned to safeguard orthodoxy than to save the lost. ‘Many good people think they ought to guard the gospel . . . When we protect it with provisos, and guard it with exceptions, and qualify it with observations, it is like David in Saul’s armour.’ He refused to explain how men could be held accountable for not trusting in a Saviour in whom they were never chosen, on the grounds that Scripture itself offers no explanation. It was enough for him that there is a salvation to be preached with love to all and that he call all to come to Christ and to say, ‘If he died for all those who trust him, I will trust him; if he has offered so great a sacrifice upon the tree for guilty men, I will rely upon that sacrifice and make it the basis of my hope.’ —Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 97–99.

Spurgeon on Catholicity

Iain Murray lists four Lessons from the Conflict with the Hyper-Calvinists of Spurgeons day. The first concerns the divisiveness of the Hyper-Calvinists, which Spurgeon deplored. Murray writes:    Genuine evangelical Christianity is never of an exclusive spirit. Any view of the truth which undermines catholicity has gone astray from Scripture. This was the point which played a considerable part in Spurgeons inability to join with the Strict Baptists. He could speak of them as about the best people in the world, but the practice of many of their churches in restricting the Lords table to Baptists grieved him. Christians may be divided over their beliefs concerning the outward sign; they are not divided in the spiritual reality of symbolized: I always say to Strict Baptist brethren who think it is a dreadful thing for baptized believers to commune with the unbaptized: But you cannot help it; if you are the people of God you must commune with all saints, baptized or not. You may deny them outward and visible sign, but you cannot keep them from the inward and spiritual grace. If a man be a child of God, I do not care what I may think about him if he be a child of God I do commune with him and I must. But he saw this professed separation of Strict Communion Baptists from the rest of the visible church was frequently made the more serious by the tenets of Hyper-Calvinism. Its teachers, from Huntington onwards, has commonly made faith in election a part of saving faith and thus either denied the Christianity of all professed Christians who did not so believe, or at least, treated such profession with much suspicion. In so doing they had spread the idea that Calvinism is necessarily exclusive, that there is something inherent in its tenets which lead men to separate from others. Spurgeon deplored the way that the abuse of the doctrine of election had thus been used to foster division: We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of Gods chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 110112.

The Doctrine of Election in Its Place

The second of four “Lessons from the Conflict” with the Hyper-Calvinists of Spurgeon’s day: This controversy brings out the danger which is created when biblical truths are constantly presented to the non-Christian in the wrong order. Spurgeon believed all the truths commonly called Calvinistic but he did not believe that all the truths commonly so designated had to be presented to sinners in order to their conversion. As noted, he wanted to see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The tendency of Hyper-Calvinism was to make sinners want to understand theology before they could believe in Christ, as though “they cannot be saved until they are theologians.” But the non-Christian can hear “the soul and marrow of the gospel’, that is, Christ as the Savior, and see his responsibility to repent and believe, without understanding “the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic’. It is with his responsibility, says Spurgeon, that “the sinner has the most to do’, whereas God’s predestining grace is the subject of with which “the saint has most to do. Let him praise the free and sovereign grace of God, and bless his name’. In so thinking Spurgeon was surely siding with what the wisest preachers in the church had always taught. While Reformed Confessions may begin with statements on the doctrine of God and divine decrees, that is not where preachers and teachers need to begin in addressing men about salvation. In the apostolic teaching to the lost, recorded in the book of Acts, nothing is said of the doctrine of election, while in the Epistles “it is scarcely ever omitted’. In accordance with his approach, Calvin, in the later editions of his Institutes, moved his treatment of election to follow teaching on justification. He recognized that Scripture generally introduces the doctrine of election to show believers the security and certainty of their salvation and to make clear who made them to differ. But when election is constantly introduced as a preliminary to hearing the gospel it inevitably comes to be seen as though it were designed to limit or obstruct the salvation of men and women. No one put this point better than John Bradford, the English reformer, whose words were often quoted by Whitefield, “let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.” It ought not to be the business of the evangelist to teach God’s decrees to the unconverted. It is certainly God’s decree of salvation which is fulfilled in conversion but knowledge of that decree is no part of saving faith. As Crawford says, God’s decrees are his fixed purposes and his “secret designs for the regulation of his own procedure; but they are not rules of laws prescribed for the guidance of others . . . The doctrine of election is not to be regarded as what an apostle calls “milk that babes have need of,” but as the “strong meat that belongs to them who are of full age.” It ought not, therefore, to be prefixed to the calls of the Gospel, or placed in the fore-front of the calls and invitations which are therein addressed without restriction to all sinners. When so placed, it is apt to perplex and disquiet humble souls . . . No man can be of the number of the elect if he utterly neglects the appointed means of salvation; and no man can be of the number of the non-elect if he truly repents and unfiegnedly believes the Gospel. The salvation of a sinner is actually brought to pass, according to the plainest declarations of the Holy Scripture, in the way of faith and repentance, and no otherwise.” —Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 114–117.

Doctrines are Christs garments

We will take a momentary break from our holiday frivolity to bring you a final installment from Iain Murrays Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. We will return tomorrow with more pointless drivel. The last of four Lessons from the Conflict with the Hyper-Calvinists of Spurgeons day is that doctrine not kept in perspective can become a master rather than a servant. Iain Murray writes: The final conclusion has to be that when Calvinism ceases to be evangelistic, when it becomes more concerned with theory than with the salvation of men and women, when the acceptance of doctrines seems to become more important than acceptance of Christ, then it is a system going to seed and it will invariably lose its attractive power. As we have seen, in his early ministries Spurgeon was opposed by those who believed that the Hyper-Calvinism of such eighteenth century-Baptists as John Gill represented the purest Christianity under heaven. That interpretation of history he knew to be wrong, not simply because it fell short of Scripture, but because its effect was to reduce endeavors for the conversion of sinners. During the pastorate of my venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, this Church, instead of increasing, gradually decreased . . . But mark this, from the day when Fuller, Carey, Sutcliffe, and others, met together to send out missionaries to India the sun began to dawn on a gracious revival which is not over yet. In this connection it is noteworthy that just as renewed understanding of the free offer of the gospel led to the age of overseas missions in England it did also by different means in Scotland. As James Walker writes, Boston and the Morrow men entered fully into the missionary spirit of the Bible and were able to see that Calvinistic doctrine is inconsistent with world-conquering aspirations and efforts. Robert Moffat, Scots pioneer missionary in South Africa, was one of the outstanding results of this rediscovery. A Calvinist who made the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly one of the first publications of the infant missions press at Kuruman, Moffat had no hesitation in writing as follows in 1834: I see nothing in the world worth looking after if it has not a direct reference to the gory and extension of the Redeemers kingdom; and were we always able to have a lively view of the myriads of who are descending into the horrible pit, our zeal would be proportionate. Much depends on us who have received the ministry of reconciliation, assured that God our Savior willeth the salvation of all. To say this is not to deny that there have been preachers of Hyper-Calvinistic views whose preaching has been used In the conversion of many. Spurgeon was thankful for such men as John Warburton and John Kernshaw, men whose Christ-centeredness often enabled them to rise above their system. But in the hands of the general run of men who regarded Hyper-Calvinism as scriptural he believed the tendency of the preaching was inevitably injurious. By distorting and exaggerating truth the system misrepresented vital doctrines and made them offensive instead of appealing to the wider Christian world. He was convinced that the truths called Calvinistic would never be more widely received among the churches if the impression was allowed to prevail that these truths inhibited earnest evangelism, as they commonly did where Hyper-Calvinism became the accepted tradition. I have seen, he says, to my inexpressible grief, the doctrines of grace made a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the dead sepulcher of a dead Christ. Hyper-Calvinism still exists today but what is needed far more than a renewed controversy on the subject is living evidence that the doctrines of grace are harmonious with true evangelistic preaching. The ministries of such men as Whitefield, Spurgeon, and, more recently, Lloyd-Jones, proved that more than a thousand books could ever do. Such preaching can only come from a baptism of new and deeper devotion to Christ. Much more than a change of opinion is needed. Spurgeon labored all his ministry for purity of doctrine but his final word was always this: What is doctrine after all but the throne whereon Christ sitteth, and when the throne is vacant what is the throne to us? Doctrines are the shovel and tongs for the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christs garments; verily they smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory places, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for as much as the person, the very person, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2002), 120122.

WLC Q16: Psalm 103:20

Q. 16. How did God create angels? A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. ���Psalm 103:20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength.��� Finding his work of praise growing upon his hands, he calls upon ���the firstborn sons of light��� to speak the praises of the Lord, as well they may, for as Milton says, they best can tell. Dwelling nearer to that prepared throne than we as yet have leave to climb, they see in nearer vision the glory which we would adore. To them is given an exceeding might of intellect, and voice, and force which they delight to use in sacred services for him; let them now turn all their strength into that solemn song which we would send up to the third heaven. To him who gave angelic strength let all angelic strength be given. They are his angels, and therefore they are not loth to ring out his praises. ���That do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.��� We are bidden to do these commandments, and alas we fail; let those unfallen spirits, whose bliss it is never to have transgressed, give to the Lord the glory of their holiness. They hearken for yet more commands, obeying as much by reverent listening as by energetic action, and in this they teach us how the heavenly will should evermore be done; yet even for this surpassing excellence let them take no praise, but render all to him who has made and kept them what they are. O that we could hear them chant the high praises of God, as did the shepherds on that greatest of all birth nights��� ���When such music sweet  Their hearts and ears did greet  As never was by mortal finger struck;  Divinely-warbled voice  Answering the stringed noise,  As well their souls in blissful rapture took:  The air, such pleasure loth to lose,  With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.���    Our glad heart anticipates the hour when we shall hear them ���harping in loud and solemn guise,��� and all to the sole praise of God. ���Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988). Get your own copy of The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms here.
On that day, the Lord will grant unto his people an abundant reward for all that they have done. Not that they deserve any reward, but that God first gave them grace to do good works. Then took their good works as evidence of a renewed heart, and then gave them a reward for what they had done. Oh, what a bliss it will be to hear it said, Well done, good and faithful servant,and to find that you have worked for Christ when nobody knew it, to find that Christ took stock of it all,to you that served the Lord under misrepresentation, to find that the Lord Jesus cleared the chaff away from the wheat, and knew that you were one of his precious ones. For him, then, to say, Enter into the joy of the Lord, oh, what a bliss will it be to you. Charles Spurgeon, quoted in John MacArthur, Slave (Thomas Nelson, 2010), 5253.

Beloved, prize redemption!

Adoption comes to us by way of redemption. . . . But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Beloved, prize redemption, and never listen to teaching which would destroy its meaning or lower its importance. Remember that ye were not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish. You were under the law, and subject to its curse, for you had broken it most grievously, and you were subject to its penalty, for it is written, the soul that sinneth, it shall die; and yet again, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. You were also under the terror of the law, for you feared its wrath; and you were under its irritating power, for often when the commandment came, sin within you revived and you died. But now you are redeemed from all; as the Holy Ghost saith, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Now ye are not under the law, but under grace, and this because Christ came under the law and kept it both by his active and his passive obedience, fulfilling all its commands and bearing all its penalty on your behalf and in your room and stead. Henceforth you are the redeemed of the Lord, and enjoy a liberty which comes by no other way but that of the eternal ransom. Remember this; and whenever you feel most assured that you are a child of God, praise the redeeming blood; whenever your heart beats highest with love to your great Father, bless the firstborn among many brethren, who for your sakes came under the law, was circumcised, kept the law in his life, and bowed his head to it in his death, honouring, and magnifying the law, and making the justice and righteousness of God to be more conspicuous by his life than it would have been by the holiness of all mankind, and his justice to be more fully vindicated by his death that it would have been if all the world of sinners had been cast into hell. Glory be to our redeeming Lord, by whom we have received the adoption! Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeons Expository Encyclopedia (Baker, 1978), 1:7677.

A Trio of Mercies

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. ���Psalm 3:3 Here David avows his confidence in God. ���Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.��� The word in the original signifies more than a shield; it means a buckler round about, a protection which shall surround a man entirely, a shield above, beneath, around, without and within. Oh! what a shield is God for his people! He wards off the fiery darts of Satan from beneath, and the storms of trials from above, while, at the same instant, he speaks peace to the tempest within the breast. Thou art ���my glory.��� David knew that though he was driven from his capital in contempt and scorn, he should yet return in triumph, and by faith he looks upon God as honouring and glorifying him. O for grace to see our future glory amid present shame! Indeed, there is a present glory in our afflictions, if we could but discern it; for it is no mean thing to have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. David was honoured when he made the ascent of Olivet, weeping, with his head covered; for he was in all this made like unto his Lord. May we learn, in this respect, to glory in tribulations also! ���And the lifter up of mine head������thou shalt yet exalt me. Though I hang my head in sorrow, I shall very soon lift it up in joy and thanksgiving. What a divine trio of mercies is contained in this verse!���defence for the defenceless, glory for the despised, and joy for the comfortless. Verily we may well say, ���there is none like the God of Jeshurun.��� ���Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Hendrickson, 1988).

Lord’s Day 14, 2012

When the Lord’s Day falls on April 1st: ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ And this he does because he is a fool. Being a fool he speaks according to his nature; being a great fool he meddles with a great subject, and comes to a wild conclusion. The atheist is, morally as well as mentally, a fool, a fool in the heart as well as in the head; a fool in morals as well as in philosophy. With the denial of God as a starting point, we may well conclude that the fool’s progress is a rapid, riotous, raving, ruinous one. He who begins at impiety is ready for anything. ‘No God,’, being interpreted, means no law, no order, no restraint to lust, no limit to passion. Who but a fool would be of this mind? What a Bedlam, or rather what an Aceldama, would the world become if such lawless principles came to be universal! He who heartily entertains an irreligious spirit, and follows it out to its legitimate issues is a son of Belial, dangerous to the commonwealth, irrational, and despicable. Every natural man is, more or less a denier of God. Practical atheism is the religion of the race. ‘Corrupt are they.’ They are rotten. It is idle to compliment them as sincere doubters, and amiable thinkers—they are putrid. There is too much dainty dealing nowadays with atheism; it is not a harmless error, it is an offensive, putrid sin, and righteous men should look upon it in that light. All men being more or less atheistic in spirit, are also in that degree corrupt; their heart is foul, their moral nature is decayed. ‘And have done abominable iniquity.’ Bad principles soon lead to bad lives. One does not find virtue promoted by the example of your Voltaires and Tom Paines. Those who talk so abominably as to deny their Maker will act abominably when it serves their turn. It is the abounding denial and forgetfulness of God among men which is the source of the unrighteousness and crime which we see around us. If all men are not outwardly vicious it is to be accounted for by the power of other and better principles, but left to itself the ‘No God’ spirit so universal in mankind would produce nothing but the most loathsome actions. ‘There is none that doeth good.’ The one typical fool is reproduced in the whole race; without a single exception men have forgotten the right way. This accusation twice made in the Psalm, and repeated a third time by the inspired apostle Paul, is an indictment most solemn and sweeping, but he who makes it cannot err, he knows what is in man; neither will he lay more to man’s charge than he can prove. —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David [Read the full commentary on Psalm 53 at the Spurgeon Archive].

Radical Depravity in Psalms

The unconverted are inwardly corrupt, a condition that causes them to commit deeds of sin continually. Because of this inward evil bent, they fail to seek after God: They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:1b3 In these verses, the psalmist records the Lords estimation of the human race: All the sons of men are corrupt. They all do abominable deeds. There is no one who does good. This sober evaluation is based upon the Lords omniscient observation from heaven of the hearts and lives of all people. All He sees is radical depravity in every unconverted life. Spurgeon writes, Where there is enmity to God, there is deep, inward depravity of mind. The words are rendered by eminent critics in an active sense, they have done corruptly; this may serve to remind us that sin is not only in our nature passively as the source of evil, but we ourselves actively fan the flame and corrupt ourselves, making that blacker still which was black as darkness itself already. We rivet our own chains by habit and continuance. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 141.

Sovereign Election in Psalms

Gods sovereign choice of his people guarantees more than their eternal destination. Election guarantees their sanctification here and now, as well. Out of the mass of sinful humanity, God has set apart a chosen people for Himself. Each of these elect individuals will become increasingly godly: But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Psalm 4:3 David teaches here that God sets apart the godly, an act that is synonymous with divine election. This choice was made before time began, and guarantees that all Gods chosen ones will be sanctified and become godly within time. God does not elect a person because he or she is godly, but in order that the person might become godly. Spurgeon comments upon this verse, The godly are the chosen of God, and are, by distinguishing grace, set apart and separated from among men. Election is a doctrine which unrenewed men cannot endure, but nevertheless, it is a glorious and well-attested truth, and one which should comfort the tempted believer. Election is the guarantee of complete salvation, and an argument for success at the throne of grace. He who chose us for Himself will surely hear our prayers. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 144.

Radical Depravity in Jeremiah

The depravity of man is not merely a state of mind, an attitude that can be changed. It is as fixed as any physical feature, and can only be changed by a miracle. The unregenerate person cannot change his sin nature or act contrary to his wicked heart. His will is essentially imprisoned: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23 Jeremiah unequivocally affirmed that the unbeliever does not have the innate ability to repent of his sin or turn to God for true righteousness. Mans will cannot act contrary to his corrupt nature. A fallen heart can give rise only to a rebellious will that will not submit to God. Concerning this text, John Calvin writes, God declares that the people are so hardened in their wickedness that there is no hope of their repentance. If an Ethiopian washed a hundred times a day, he would still remain black. Jeremiah condemns the Jews for their habitual practice of doing evil. They were unable to repent, for their wickedness had become inherent or firmly fixed in their hearts, like the blackness that is inherent in the skin of the Ethiopians or the spots belonging to the leopard. That is to say, no unregenerate heart can change its nature; it cannot choose contrary to itself toward God. Regarding this startling verse, Charles H. Spurgeon proclaims, You can make yourself filthy by sin, but you cannot make yourself spiritually clean, do what you will. . . . You can do evil all too readily; you can do it with both hands, greedily, and do it again and again, and not grow weary of it; but to return to the right path, this is the difficulty. . . . But remember, dear friends, that, even if an Ethiopian could change his skin, that would be a far smaller difficulty than the one with which a sinner has to deal, for it is not his skin, but his heart, which has to be changed. The unconverted simply cannot change their ways. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 193.

Preserving Grace in John

Steve Lawson on every Arminians favorite verse: Those who put their trust in Jesus Christ never perish in the spiritual sense. They receive eternal life, which delivers them from suffering eternal destruction: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 Jesus promised that all who believe upon Him never perish. That is, they do not suffer eternal destruction in hell. They do not endure everlasting damnation in the flames of hell. Calvin states, So it follows that until Christ set about rescuing the lost, everyone was destined for eternal destruction. . . . God specifically states that although we appear to have been born for death, certain deliverance is offered to us through faith in Christ. So we should not fear death, which would otherwise hang over us. . . . In this way we are freed from the condemnation of eternal death and made heirs of eternal life, because through the sacrifice of His death He has atoned for our sins so that nothing will prevent God from acknowledging us as His sons. Charles H. Spurgeon proclaims, This proves the final perseverance of the saints; for if the believer ceased to be a believer he would perish; and as he cannot perish, it is clear that he will continue a believer. If thou wert to lose it, it would prove that it was not everlasting, and thou wouldest perish; and thus thou wouldst make this word to be of no effect. Whosoever with his heart believeth in Christ is a saved man, not for to-night only, but for all the nights that ever shall be, and for that dread night of death, and for that solemn eternity which draws so near. This is to say, believers are eternally secure, forever safe, and kept in Gods saving grace. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 296.

Thanksgiving with Spurgeon

Continuing the Thanksgiving theme: Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! —Psalm 107:1 It is all we can give him, and the least we can give; therefore let us diligently render to him our thanksgiving. The psalmist is in earnest in the exhortation, hence the use of the interjection “O,” to intensify his words: let us be at all times thoroughly fervent in the praises of the Lord, both with our lips and with our lives, by thanksgiving and thanks living. Jehovah, for that is the name here used, is not to be worshipped with groans and cries, but with thanks, for he is good; and these thanks should be heartily rendered, for his is no common goodness: he is good by nature, and essence, and proven to be good in all the acts of his eternity. Compared with him there is none good, no, not one: but he is essentially, perpetually, superlatively, infinitely good. We are the perpetual partakers of his goodness, and therefore ought above all his creatures to magnify his name. Our praise should be increased by the fact that the divine goodness is not a transient thing, but in the attribute of mercy abides for ever the same, for his mercy endureth for ever. The word endureth has been properly supplied by the translators, but yet it somewhat restricts the sense, which will be better seen if we read it, “for his mercy forever.” That mercy had no beginning, and shall never know an end. Our sin required that goodness should display itself to us in the form of mercy, and it has done so, and will do so evermore; let us not be slack in praising the goodness which thus adapts itself to our fallen nature. —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David [Read the full commentary on Psalm 107 at the Spurgeon Archive].

Scripture Spectacles

Monday··2013·01·21 · 3 Comments
Charles Spurgeon, on those who eschew Bible commentaries and tout a solo Scriptura (not to be confused with sola Scriptura) philosophy, has been quoted as saying, It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. Two hundred years earlier, Joseph Caryl (16921673) expressed a similar opinion: [Caryl] refutes the notion that God does not use commentators and preachers to shed light on His Word throughout the generations. He acknowledges that human expositors, by no means infallible, are no better than spectacles for the vision impaired compared to the clear view of truth that saints will enjoy in the coming glory. But, he argues, Tis no wisdom for the dim-sighted man presently, to throw away his spectacles, though he be assured that within a while his eyesight shall be cleared. Meet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 136. Related: Dumb Things I have Believed: Me & My Bible

Peace without Misery

Sometimes we are inclined to think that a great portion of American revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Fathers house, and never making him say, Father, I have sinned. The old-fashioned sense of sin is despised . . . The consequence is that men leap into religion and then leap out again. Unhumbled they come into the church, unhumbled they remain in it, and unhumbled they go from it. Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 2627.

A Century Hence

More than a century ago, Charles Spurgeon asked the following question. We should ask it of ourselves today. How are we to expect the gospel to be kept alive in the world if we do not hand it on to the next generation as the former generation handed it down to us. Oh, shall it ever be said a century hence, The people of 1880 never thought of us in 1980, they let the gospel go: they allowed the doctrines to be denied one after another? Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 40.

A Change of Nature

Wednesday··2013·04·03 · 2 Comments
Modern evangelical evangelism fails to understand what man is. One common and still popular explanation of the relationship between the divine and the human is that the decision of the human will is the occasion for the regenerating work of God to come into operation: We believe and so we are born again. The fallacy of this view lies in its failure to take account of the condition of man in sin. As the result of the Fall, the human heart is at enmity to God and the things of God. It knows no attraction to God, and the idea of friendship with God through Jesus Christ is totally without appeal. According to Scripture there are only two types of men. Of the natural man, man in the flesh, it is said that he is dead in trespasses and sins. He must therefore have a change of nature before he can repent of what he loves, and before he can believe what he hates, For the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned ( 1 Cor. 2:14). This being true, repentance and faith have to be understood not as the cause of the new life but as the actions of one who has been renewed: There is one turning point, and one only, which will secure salvation and eternal life; and that is what we call conversion, which is the first apparent result of regeneration, or the new birth. The man being renewed, the current of his life is turned: he is converted. [Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 35:494. Read sermon online: The Inner Side of Conversion.] To receive Christ, a man must be born of God. It is the simplest thing in all the world, one would think, to open the door of the heart, and let him in; but no man lets Christ into his heart till first God has made him to be born again, born from above. [Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 38:274. Read sermon online: The Simplicity and Sublimity of Salvation.] What is primary, then, in anyone becoming a Christian is the act of God in regeneration, but regeneration is never without conversion and the latter is a process rather than any single act. Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 4445.

A Still Greater Mystery

I suppose I risk belaboring the point, but here’s another excerpt on the unknowability of the moment of regeneration, this time from Spurgeon. Scripture does not teach that Christians know the moment of their rebirth. No man can describe his first birth; it remains a mystery. Neither can he describe his new birth; that is a still greater mystery, for it is a secret work of the Holy Ghost, of which we feel the effect, but cannot tell how it is wrought. [Read sermon online: Life from the Dead.] I do not think you can tell, with regard to yourself, when the first gracious thought was sewn in you, when first you lived towards God. You can tell when you first perceived that you believed in God; but there was an experience before that. You cannot put your finger on such and such a place and say, “Here the east wind began,” nor canst thou say, “Here the Spirit of God began to work in me.” [Read sermon online: The Spirit and the Wind.] This truth has an important practical lesson: an individual may have passed from death to life in regeneration and yet not recognize it at first. This explains how a person can be truly “willing to believe” and yet uncertain if Christ will accept him. To such a person Spurgeon could say, “If the power of God has made a man will to believe, the greater work has been done, and his actual believing will follow in due course . . . Rising from the dead is a greater thing than the performance of an act of life.” — Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 54–55.

Revivals of the Human Sort

In the late nineteenth century, writes Iain Murray, preaching of the fear of God fell on hard times. It was thought that conversion should be made simple, so that greater results might be achieved. Christians were no longer described as God fearing; the emphasis now was on happy. Charles Spurgeon was among a minority who rejected the idea, insisting that the fear of God and conviction of sin must precede any genuine happiness. The happy Christian, he believed, was one who first learned a holy fear of God. Spurgeon had no doubt that superficial evangelism was a major contributing cause for the absence of converts of this type. Far too many results were impermanent: We have had plenty of revivals of the human sort, and their results have been sadly disappointing. Under excitement nominal converts have been multiplied: but where are they after a little testing? I am sadly compelled to own, so far as I can observe, there has been much sown, and very little reaped that was worth reaping. Our hopes were a flattering dream; but the apparent result has vanished like a vision in the night. But where the Spirit of God is really at work the converts stand. [Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 27:531. Read sermon online: The Pentecostal Wind and Fire.] The Holy Ghost is come to convince of sin. It is absolutely necessary that men should be convinced of sin. The fashionable theology is Convince men of the goodness of God: show them the universal fatherhood and assure them of unlimited mercy. Win them by Gods love, but never mention his wrath against sin, or the need of an atonement, or the possibility of there being a place of punishment. Do not censure poor creatures for their failings. Do not judge and condemn. Do not search the heart or lead men to be low-spirited and sorrowful. Comfort and encourage, but never accuse and threaten. Yes, that is the way of man; but the way of the Spirit is very different. He comes on purpose to convince of sin, to make men feel that they are guilty, greatly guilty so guilty that they are lost, ruined and undone. He comes to make sin appear sin, and to let us see its fearful consequences. He comes to wound so that no human balm can heal; to kill so that no earthly power can make us live. What is it that makes the beauty and excellence of human righteousness to wither as the green herb? Isaiah says it is because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it. There is a withering work of the Holy Spirit which we must experience, or we shall never know his quickening and restoring power. This withering is a most needed experience, and just now needs much to be insisted on. Today we have so many built up who were never pulled down; so many filled who were never emptied; so many exalted who were never humbled; that I the more earnestly remind you that the Holy Ghost must convince us of sin, or we cannot be saved. This work is most necessary, because without it there is no leading men to receive the gospel of the grace of God. We cannot make any headway with certain people because they profess faith very readily, but they are not convinced of anything. Oh, yes, we are sinners, no doubt, and Christ died for sinners: that is the free-and-easy way with which they handle heavenly mysteries, as if they were the nonsense verses of a boys exercise, or the stories of Mother Goose. This is all mockery, and we are weary of it, but get near a real sinner, and you have found a man you can deal with: I mean the man who is a sinner, and no mistake, and mourns in his inmost soul that he is so. In such and man you will find one who will welcome the gospel, welcome grace, and welcome a Saviour. [Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 29:125126. Read sermon online: The Holy Spirits Threefold Conviction of Men.] There is an urgent need today for the recovery of the truth about conversion. A widespread controversy on this subject would be a healthy wind to blow away a thousand lesser things. A renewed fear of God would end much worldly thinking and silence a multitude of raucous services. There has been much talk of more evangelism, and many hopes of revival, but Sourgeon would teach us that the need is to go back to first things. Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 6668.

Your Imaginary Heaven

Monday··2013·08·26 · 3 Comments
Charles Spurgeon on Heaven Is for Real and other heaven tourism books: It’s a little heaven below, to imagine sweet things. But never think that imagination can picture heaven. When it is most sublime when it is freest from the dust of earth, when it is carried up by the greatest knowledge, and kept steady by the most extreme caution, imagination cannot picture heaven. “It hath not entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Imagination is good, but not to picture to us heaven. Your imaginary heaven you will find by-and-by to be all a mistake; though you may have piled up fine castles, you will find them to be castles in the air, and they will vanish like thin clouds before the gale. For imagination cannot make a heaven. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered the heart of man to conceive” it. —Cited in The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Second Edition) (Crossway, 2013), 18.

It Is Good to Give Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night, With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, With resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man has no knowledge, Nor does a stupid man understand this: That when the wicked sprouted up like grass And all who did iniquity flourished, It was only that they might be destroyed forevermore. But You, O Lord, are on high forever. For, behold, Your enemies, O Lord, For, behold, Your enemies will perish; All who do iniquity will be scattered. But You have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. And my eye has looked exultantly upon my foes, My ears hear of the evildoers who rise up against me. The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. —Psalm 92 For Thanksgiving, Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of Psalm 92:2: “To shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning.” The day should begin with praise: no hour is too early for holy song. Loving-kindness is a most appropriate theme for those dewy hours when morn is sowing all the earth with orient pearl. Eagerly and promptly should we magnify the Lord; we leave unpleasant tasks as long as we can, but our hearts are so engrossed with the adoration of God that we would rise betimes to attend to it. There is a peculiar freshness and charm about early morning praises; the day is loveliest when it first opens its eyelids, and God himself seems then to make distribution of the day’s manna, which tastes most sweetly if gathered ere the sun is hot. It seems most meet that if our hearts and harps have been silent through the shades of night we should be eager again to take our place among the chosen choir who ceaselessly hymn the Eternal One. “And thy faithfulness every night.” No hour is too late for praise, the end of the day must not be the end of gratitude. When nature seems in silent contemplation to adore its Maker, it ill becomes the children of God to refrain their thanksgiving. Evening is the time for retrospect, memory is busy with the experience of the day, hence the appropriate theme for song is the divine faithfulness, of which another day has furnished fresh evidences. When darkness has settled down over all things, “a shade immense,” then there comes over wise men a congenial, meditative spirit, and it is most fitting that they should take an expanded view of the truth and goodness of Jehovah— “This sacred shade and solitude, what is it? ’Tis the felt presence of the Deity.” “Every night,” clouded or clear, moonlit or dark, calm or tempestuous, is alike suitable for a song upon the faithfulness of God, since in all seasons, and under all circumstances, it abides the same, and is the mainstay of the believer’s consolation. Shame on us that we are so backward in magnifying the Lord, who in the daytime scatters bounteous love, and in the night season walks his rounds of watching care. —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883), 4:264. [Read entire exposition at]

Do we love that yoke?

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” —Psalm 2:1–3 We have, in these first three verses, a description of the hatred of human nature against the Christ of God. No better comment is needed upon it than the apostolic song in Acts iv. 27, 28: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” The Psalm begins abruptly with an angry interrogation; and well it may: it is surely but little to be wondered at, that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind. We see the heathen raging, roaring like the sea, tossed to and fro with restless waves, as the ocean in a storm; and then we mark the people in their hearts imagining a vain thing against God. Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it. Note, that the commotion is not caused by the people only, but their leaders foment the rebellion. “The kings of the earth set themselves.” In determined malice they arrayed themselves in opposition against God. It was not temporary rage, but deep-seated hate, for they set themselves resolutely to withstand the Prince of Peace. “And the rulers take counsel together.” They go about their warfare craftily, not with foolish haste, but deliberately. They use all the skill which art can give. Like Pharaoh, they cry, “Let us deal wisely with them.” O that men were half as careful in God’s service to serve him wisely, as his enemies are to attack his kingdom craftily. Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull. But what say they? what is the meaning of this commotion? “Let us break their bands asunder.” “Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.” Gathering impudence by the traitorous proposition of rebellion, they add—“let us cast away;” as if it were an easy matter—“let us fling off ‘their cords from us.’” What! O ye kings, do ye think yourselves Samsons? and are the bands of Omnipotence but as green withs before you? Do you dream that you shall snap to pieces and destroy the mandates of God—the decrees of the Most High—as if they were but tow? and do ye say, “Let us cast away their cords from us?” Yes! There are monarchs who have spoken thus, and there are still rebels upon thrones. However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day. The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated, until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. His coming will be as a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap, and the day thereof shall burn as an oven. Earth loves not her rightful monarch, but clings to the usurper’s sway: the terrible conflicts of the last days will illustrate both the world’s love of sin and Jehovah’s power to give the kingdom to his only Begotten. To a graceless neck the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this, do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us? —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read entire commentary on Psalm 2 at].

The Lord Hears

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. —Psalm 4:3 “But know.’ Fools will not learn, and therefore they must again and again be told the same thing, especially when it is such a bitter truth which is to be taught them, viz.:—the fact that the godly are the chosen of God, and are, by distinguishing grace, set apart and separated from among men. Election is a doctrine which unrenewed men cannot endure, but nevertheless, it is a glorious and well-attested truth, and one which should comfort the tempted believer. Election is the guarantee of complete salvation, and an argument for success at the throne of grace. He who chose us for himself will surely hear our prayer. The Lord’s elect shall not be condemned, nor shall their cry be unheard. David was king by divine decree, and we are the Lord’s people in the same manner: let us tell our enemies to their faces, that they fight against God and destiny, when they strive to overthrow our souls. O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God’s own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire you with fervency and faith. “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?” Since he chose to love us he cannot but choose to hear us. —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read entire commentary on Psalm 4 at].

Semi-Lunatics with Stupid Messages

Charles Spurgeon had a way with words that could not be borne by this sissified, sensitive generation—and so I love him. Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonoured by persons—I hope they were insane—who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages. . . . Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the word of God already—he adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at his door. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 130–131.
Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the Zoological Gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right. So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their compeers had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.” Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is to-day as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred with the flames of Smithfield? —Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Ashamed of the Gospel (Crossway, 2010), 54. MacArthur presents this passage from Spurgeon, appropriately, as a counter to the market-driven philosophy of ministry—and, of course, those people are rightly rebuked. But I think Spurgeon’s words are equally applicable much closer to home. In these days when “irenic” is tossed around as the ultimate virtue, we who hold to some form of Reformed faith need to ask ourselves what compromises we are making that the Reformers would abhor. Will we tolerate ungodliness and weird (to put it mildly) theology? The Driscoll debacle should teach us better. Will we soften our stand against homosexuality—and, consequently, our gospel witness to those bound by it—because some of our leading lights have decided it’s only sin if you actually do it? Will we tolerate the denial of the first chapters of Genesis because Tim Keller is such a clever man?* Will we compromise sola Scriptura because we know so many fine charismatics? I’m sure there are more good questions we could ask ourselves, but those will do for now. It is of no use to praise men who, centuries ago, did what we are now unwilling to do. * Will we refrain from naming names because it’s deemed impolite?

The Religion of God’s Own Church

Twenty or so years ago, long before my first visit to the internet, I went to an actual bookstore where I picked up a nice little volume on the Doctrines of Grace called The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas. Having already embraced the doctrines of divine sovereignty, I needed no convincing, but that little book helped to clarify these doctrines that Scripture had already proven to me. When a second, updated and expanded edition was published in 2004, I snapped it up, but, as so often happens, it sat on the shelf, unread—until this week. As the title suggests, The Five Points of Calvinism consists of three parts: The Five Points Defined provides the history of the Arminian Remonstrance and the church’s response, and the definition of each of the Five Points; The Five Points Defended presents the biblical foundation for each point; The Five Points Documented provides recommended resources for further study. There are also eight additional appendices by various authors including Charles Spurgeon and Lorraine Boettner. This will be my blog fodder in the coming days. For now, I will leave you with this brief quotation from Spurgeon, which expresses my opinion exactly. 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. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into [the] past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. . . . taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church. —Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Steele, Thomas, and Quinn, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004).

So Nearly Parallel

That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 92–93. [Original source: “a Defense of Calvinism” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, eds. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald, 4 vols. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1899), 1:177.]
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. —Romans 2:14–16 Is not this expression “my gospel” the voice of love? Does he not by this term embrace the gospel as the only love of his soul—for the sake of which he had “suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish” (Phil. 3:8)—for the sake of which he was willing to stand before Nero, and proclaim, even in Caesar’s palace, the message from heaven? Although each word might cost him a life, he was willing to die a thousand deaths for the holy cause. “My gospel,” says he, with a rapture of delight, as he presses to his heart the sacred deposit of truth. “My gospel.” Does this not show his courage? As much as to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” He says, “my gospel” as a soldier speaks of “my colors,” or of “my king.” He resolves to bear this banner to victory, and to serve this royal truth even to the death. “My gospel.” There is a touch of discrimination about the expression. Paul perceives that there are other gospels, and he makes short work with them, for he says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). The apostle was of a gentle spirit; he prayed heartily for the Jews who persecuted him, and yielded his life for the conversion of the Gentiles who maltreated him. But he had no tolerance for false gospellers. He exhibited great breadth of mind, and to save souls he became all things to all men. But when he contemplated any alteration or adulteration of the gospel of Christ, he thundered and lightninged without measure. When he feared that something else might spring up among the philosophers, or among the Judaizers, that should hide a single beam of the glorious Sun of Righteousness, he used no measured language. He cried concerning the author of such a darkening influence, “Let him be accursed. . . . Let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8–9). —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 175–176 [Adapted from sermons by Charles Spurgeon].

Reformation Day, 2018

Here [in Romans 3:1–20] the question arises: How can a person be justified without the works of the Law, or how can it be that justification does not flow from our works? For St. James writes: “We see how that by works a man is justified, and and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). So also St. Paul: “Faith . . . worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6); and: “The doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). To this we reply: as the Apostle distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace, so also he distinguishes between the works resulting from these. He calls those deeds “works of the Law” that are done without faith and divine grace, merely because of the law, moved by either fear of punishment or the alluring hope of reward. By works of faith he calls those deeds which are done in the spirit of (Christian) liberty and flow from love to God. These can be done only by such as are justified by faith. Justification, however, is not in any way promoted by the works of the Law, but they rather hinder it, because they keep a person from regarding himself as unrighteous and so in need of justification. When James and Paul say that a man is justified by works, they argue against the false opinion of those who think that (for justification) a faith suffices that is without works. Paul does not say that true faith exists without its proper works, for without these there is not true faith. But what he says is that it is faith alone that justifies, regardless of works. Justification therefore does not presuppose the works of the law, but rather a living faith which performs its proper works, as we read Galatians 5:67. By the law is the knowledge of sin (3:20). Such knowledge of sin is obtained in two ways. First, by meditation (of the Law), as we read in Romans 7:7: “I had not know lust except the law had said, thou shalt not covet.” Secondly, by experience, namely, by trying to fulfill the Law, or we may say, through the Law as was assure to fulfill its obligations. Then the Law will become to us as occasion to sin, for then the perverted will of man, inclined to evil, but urged by the Law to do good, becomes all the more unwillingly and disinclined to do what is good. It hates to be drawn away from what it loves; and what it loves is sin, as we learn from Genesis 8:21. But just so, man, forced by the Law and obeying it unwillingly, sees how deeply sin and evil are rooted in his soul. He would never notice this, if he did not have the Law and would not try to follow it. The Apostle here only mentions this though, since he intends to treat it more fully in Chapters 5 and 7. Here he merely meets the objection that the Law would be useless if its works could not justify. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 59–60. Accordingly, [David], after he states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament shows forth the works of his hands, the ordered succession of days and nights proclaims his majesty” [Ps. 19:1–2 p.], then proceeds to mention his Word: “The law of the Lord is spotless, converting souls; the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones; the righteous acts of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts; the precept of the Lord is clear, enlightening eyes” [Ps. 28:8–9, Vg.; 19:7–8, EV]. For although he also includes other uses of the law, he means in general that, since God in vain calls all peoples to himself by the contemplation of heaven and earth, this is the very school of God’s children. Psalm 29 looks to this same end, where the prophet—speaking forth concerning God’s awesome voice, which strikes the earth in thunder [v. 3], winds, rains, whirlwinds and tempests, causes mountains to tremble [v. 6], shatters the cedars [v. 5]—finally adds at the end that his praises are sung in the sanctuary because the unbelievers are deaf to all the voices of God that resound in the air [vs. 9–11]. Similarly, he thus ends another psalm where he has described the awesome waves of the sea: “Thy testimonies have been verified, the beauty and holiness of thy temple shall endure forevermore” [Psalm 93:5 p.]. Hence, also, arises that which Christ said to the Samaritan woman, that her people and all other peoples worshiped they knew not what; that the Jews alone offered worship to the true God [John 4:22]. For, since the human mind because of its feebleness can in no way attain to God unless it be aided and assisted by his Sacred Word, all mortals at that time—except for the Jews—because they were seeking God without the Word, had of necessity to stagger about in vanity and error. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.6.4. We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land. —Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. 1: The Early Years, 1834–1859, comp. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald (Banner of Truth, 1962), v.

A Bible in Miniature

This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of the Scriptures. It is the very Holy of holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is specially holy ground. This fifty-third of Isaiah is a Bible in miniature. It is the condensed essence of the gospel. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 21. Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand. Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. —Isaiah 52:13–53:12
Every unprejudiced person might have seen from [Isaiah 52:13–53:13] that the Messiah, when he came, was not to be surrounded with pomp, but would come as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” to be “despised and rejected of men.” Yet, though the truth was written as with a sunbeam, and the Jewish people were pretty generally acquainted with their own Scriptures, so that they had the opportunity of knowing it, yet when the Messiah came unto his own, his own received him not, and though favoured with the clearest prophecies concerning him they rejected his claims, and cried, “Let him be crucified!” —Charles Spurgeon, cited in John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 67. Why did the Jews reject their Messiah? The answer is found in the word “unprejudiced.” “Every unprejudiced person” who knew the words of Isaiah—that is, every Jew educated in the synagogue—should have known the Messiah would not be a political leader or military conqueror, but they were not unprejudiced. Neither are we, by birth (Psalm 51:5). Why did the Jews reject their Messiah? For the same reason we all do. By nature, we are predisposed to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. We need a new nature before we can see him as our true Messiah. We must be born again (John 3:1–8).

Random Selections: Idle Hands (Charles Spurgeon)

This random selection (even page, second paragraph) is from Charles Spurgeon, preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Let us be afraid of having nothing to do, and be thankful for something to suffer, if we have nothing to do actively; for, let us alone, and the best of us will corrode. And if I am addressing any man who has lately given up business and is enjoying repose, I would urge upon him the wisdom of seeking some service for Christ which would engage his faculties, for it is true of Christians as well as other people, that,— “Satan always mischief finds,   For idle hands to do.” —Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia (Baker Book House, 1978), 14:460.

The Pilgrim’s Problem

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian classic that many of you have no doubt read. So revered it is that I know of some who say they read it every year. I’ve read it two or three times (beginning with a young reader’s version when I was a pre-teen), but I’ve never found it as satisfying as I felt I should, considering the high praise it receives from so many whose opinions I value. I didn’t know why until a few years ago, when someone whose name I’ve forgotten pointed out a fairly serious flaw in the plot. I was recently reminded of it when I read the following story, told by Charles Spurgeon. By the way, let me tell you a little story about Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible. And the other day I met with a story about him which I think a very good one. There was young man in Edinburgh who wished to be a missionary. He was a wise young man so he thought, “If I am to be a missionary, there is no need for me to transport myself far away from home. I may as well be a missionary in Edinburgh.” Well, this young man started and determined to speak to the first person he met. He met one of those old fish wives with her basket of fish on her back. Those of us who have seen them can never forget them. They are extraordinary women indeed. So stepping up to her, he said, “Here you are coming along with your burden on your back, let me ask you, have you got another burden, a spiritual burden?” “What,” she asked, “you mean that burden in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Because if you do, young man, I got rid of that burden many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a way better than the Pilgrim did. The Evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that do not preach the gospel, for he said, ‘keep that light in thine eye and run to the wicket gate.’ Why, man alive, that was not the place to run to! He should have said, ‘Do you see that Cross, run there at once.’ But instead of that he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket gate first and much good he got by going there, he got tumbling into the slough and was like to have been killed by it.” The young man was rather abashed. “But did you not,” the young man asked, “go through any Slough of Despond?” “Yes, I did, but I found it a great deal easier going through it with my burden off than with it on!” The old woman [continued Spurgeon] was quite right. John Bunyan put the putting off of the burden too far off from the commencing of the pilgrimage. If he meant to describe what usually happens, he was right. But if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong. The cross should be right in front of the wicket gate and we should say to the sinner, “Throw thyself down there and thou art safe, but thou art not safe ‘til thou canst cast the burden and lie at the foot of the Cross and find peace in Jesus.” —Charles Spurgeon, cited in Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ (Crossway, 2016), 58–59.


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

Westminster Bookstore

  Sick of lame Christian radio?
  Try RefNet