C. H. Spurgeon's Gospel
by Glenn Conjurske
In October of 2000, in an article entitled The Ancient Men on the
Old Doctrine that The Terms of Discipleship are The Terms of Salvation,
I gave two lengthy quotations from C. H. Spurgeon, both of them strong,
forceful, and explicit
----both of them, indeed, absolutely conclusive
that Spurgeon held the terms of discipleship to be the terms of salvation.
I supposed these quotations would establish the matter beyond the reach
of doubt or cavil. But I was surprised to receive some time afterwards
some communications suggesting that I was misreading or misusing Spurgeon.
But surprised is too weak a term. Actually I was dumbfounded.
It had never entered my head that any man could read those quotations
without being convinced that Spurgeon preached the necessity of discipleship
to salvation. But in that I was apparently mistaken. I had evidently not
sufficiently reckoned on the power of prejudice. David Otis Fuller read
Spurgeon and found the modern King James Only doctrines, and can it be
that the same men who will condemn Fuller for this can read Spurgeon,
and find the modern antinomian gospel? I had hoped better things than
this. I do so still. I labored to excuse Fuller from any intentional dishonesty
in his use of Spurgeon, and I will do the same with my friends in the
present case. Surely they have read Spurgeon without due attention. Surely
they will acknowledge the force of the facts when they are laid plainly
before their eyes. I proceed to make a further attempt.
One little paper which has been sent me is entitled, Charles Spurgeon
and Lordship Salvation. This begins by rehearsing, in Spurgeon's
own words, the story of Spurgeon's conversion under a sermon
on Look unto me, and be ye saved. This is followed by ten
observations, among which I note the following:
5. Notice that the emphasis of the sermon was upon LOOKING, not
7. Notice that the substitute preacher did not say anything about
the terms of discipleship and the demands that are incumbent upon every
saved person to follow and obey Christ.
8. Notice that the substitute preacher did not tell Spurgeon to
'submit to Christ's Lordship' or 'fulfill the terms of discipleship' or
'turn from and forsake all sin' or 'hate father, mother, wife, children,
etc.' These things are the rightful results of salvation but not the simple
terms of salvation.
And here I say calmly and solemnly, that this is certainly to misuse Spurgeon.
It is of course a plain fact of history that the substitute preacher
did not mention repentance or submission or discipleship on the occasion
of Spurgeon's conversion, but it is another plain fact that Spurgeon himself
preached those things often, and preached them as the terms of salvation.
The title of this paper is not The Substitute Preacher and Lordship
Salvation, but Charles Spurgeon and Lordship Salvation.
It is no use telling us what the substitute preacher did or did not mention
when Spurgeon was converted, when we know very well that Spurgeon himself
often preached those things after he was converted
them as the conditions of salvation, and preached them to the day of his
death. I myself was converted under no preaching at all, but it would
be grossly to misuse the facts to claim me as an advocate for converting
men without preaching. It is no use to tell me that the substitute
preacher did not say anything about the terms of discipleship and the
demands that are incumbent upon every saved person to follow and obey
Christ, when it is an incontrovertible fact of history that Spurgeon
himself preached the demands that are incumbent upon every unsaved person
to follow and obey Christ.
But I must turn aside for a moment, to comment upon the doctrinal significance
of the manner of Spurgeon's conversion. The fact is, there was no need
to preach repentance to him. He was already a penitent man
----had been repenting with all his heart for weeks and months. What he
needed was faith, and the sermon which he heard on Look and live
was used to give him that faith. And for the many who hold repentance
and faith to be inseparable, the seeking Spurgeon is a clear example of
how far a truly penitent man may be from possessing the faith of the gospel.
But that Spurgeon himself preached nothing more than he heard in that
sermon is notoriously false. It is indisputable that he preached repentance
and discipleship as necessary to salvation, and preached these as forcefully
as any man who has ever lived. But some who are apparently unwilling to
believe this have found a sermon in which Spurgeon seems to imply a denial
of it, and with a little looking we suppose they might find a few more
of such also. This does not surprise us. We have remarked before in the
pages of this magazine(in January of 1997, page 20)
any aim to detract from Spurgeon, and without the slightest reference
to the present controversy ----that Spurgeon may often be quoted
on both sides of the question, and this is particularly true on everything
which touches Calvinism. I have long held it, and often stated it, that
SPURGEON WAS ONE OF THE MOST INCONSISTENT THEOLOGIANS EVER TO WALK THE
EARTH. And the reason for his inconsistency is as plain as the daylight
to those who understand the truth. He had set himself to maintain two
systems which are utterly incompatible with each other. He was set to
maintain both Calvinism and Scripture, and every man who sincerely does
this must necessarily involve himself in an endless maze of self-contradictions.
And I believe Spurgeon did this sincerely ----often professing himself
that he could not reconcile the two sides of his system. He supposed that
both sides were the truth, and therefore capable of reconciliation, but
the task was really hopeless. He held a lie in one hand and the truth
in the other ----Calvinism in one hand and Scripture in the other ----and
these two will never be reconciled in time or eternity. But Spurgeon was
a good man, and it is certain that most of the time Scripture had more
weight with him than Calvinism. Consistent Calvinism he opposed with all
his might, under the name of hyper-Calvinism.
But there is more. Though there may be exceptions to what I am about to
affirm, yet I affirm nevertheless that in general, when Spurgeon enforces
the truth of the gospel, he speaks not only forcefully, but explicitly
and specifically, demanding of sinners in express terms that they forsake
all sin and submit without reserve to Christ. On the other hand, when
he launches forth upon a Calvinistic rhapsody concerning no terms or conditions,
he speaks in general terms
----and surely does not venture then
to explicitly deny what he elsewhere explicitly preaches, though he may
appear to deny it by implication.
These considerations may perhaps allow us to suppose that he was not quite
so self-contradictory as he often appears to be. Nevertheless, he is seen
at times in the same sermon denouncing the legality which
imposes terms and conditions upon sinners, and yet insisting that if they
do not forsake every sin they will be damned. Witness the following:
Another furrow which some do not much like to plough, but which
must be distinctly marked if a man is an honest ploughman for God, is
that of repentance. Sinner, you and your sins must part. You have been
married long, and you have had a merry time of it perhaps; but you must
part. You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never
come together. Not one sin may you keep. They must all be given up: they
must be brought out like the Canaanitish kings from the cave, and hanged
up before the sun. Not one darling must be spared. You must forsake them,
loathe them, abhor them, and ask the Lord to overcome them.
And again, There is the furrow of holiness, that is the next turn
the ploughman takes[.] Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
We have preached salvation by grace, but we do not preach salvation to
those who still continue in sin.
And finally, Confusion worse confounded follows upon confusing grace
and law. There is the covenant of works
----'This do, and thou shalt
live,' but its voice is not that of the covenant of grace which says,
'Hear and your soul shall live.You shall, for I will:' that is the
covenant of grace. It is a covenant of pure promise unalloyed by terms
and conditions. I have heard people put it thus ----'Believers will
be saved if from this time forth they are faithful to grace given.' That
savours of the covenant of works. 'God will love you' ----says another, ----'if
you ----.' Ah, the moment you get an 'if' in it, it is the covenant
of works, and the gospel has evaporated.
We have little doubt that most of our modern preachers, reading this last
quotation by itself, would come to the solid conclusion that Spurgeon
could not have held repentance or holiness as necessary to salvation,
but the plain fact is, the three quotations which I have printed above
are all from the same sermon, and the latter two of them from the same
page. The reader will find them in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,
vol. XXI (1875), pp. 88-89. The first two quotations are plain declarations
of the truth of Scripture. The third is only the mouthing of the jargon
of Calvinism, and it is confusion and falsehood. That the new covenant
is pure promise unalloyed by terms and conditions is utterly
false. Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Christ is the
author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. These are
the terms of the new covenant, as the soundest and best theologians have
contended for centuries, including all the best of the Calvinists, and
Spurgeon himself constantly preached these conditions, even in this same
sermon. It is confusion confounded indeed, and ridiculously shallow besides,
to hold that the presence of an if sets us on the ground of
the covenant of works, and evaporates the gospel. Paul says, Moreover,
brethren, I declare unto you zthe gospel which I preached unto you, which
also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved,
zIF ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed
in vain. And as for God will love you if you
it is Christ who says, If a man love me, he will keep my words:
and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode
with him. (John 14:23). But Calvinism always stands in the way of
simple faith in the word of God. And yet we observe that even in the midst
of his most Calvinistic rhapsodies, Spurgeon never descends so low as
our modern antinomians. You shall, for I will, he says ----that
is, you shall repent and obey, for I will that you shall, whereas most
of our modern antinomians would rather say, You need not, for I
have ----you need not obey, for I have obeyed in your stead.
Spurgeon never descends so low.
But consider one more example. Spurgeon closes one of his sermons with
Tarry not to cleanse or mend, but now 'believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ and thou shalt be saved.' This night if you believe in Jesus you
shall go out of these doors rejoicing that the Lord has put away your
sin. To believe is to trust
----simply to trust in Christ. It seems
a very simple thing, but that is why it is so hard. If it were a hard
thing you would more readily attend to it; but being so easy you cannot
believe that it is effectual. But it is so: faith does save. Christ wants
nothing of you but that you accept what he freely presents to you. Put
out an empty hand, a black hand, a trembling hand; accept what Jesus gives,
and salvation is yours.
Now there is no doubt that most men, reading the above, would conclude
that Spurgeon preached just such an easy-believe gospel as is commonly
----especially when prejudice leads them to wish
this to be the case. But they must abandon that opinion, when we inform
them that the subject of this sermon is repentance, and that earlier in
the same sermon he says, Ye that would faithfully serve Christ note
carefully how he taught his disciples WHAT THEY WERE TO PREACH. We find
different descriptions of the subject of our preaching, but on this occasion
it is comprised in two things ----repentance and remission of sins.
I am glad to find in this verse that old-fashioned virtue called repentance.
It used to be preached, but it has gone out of fashion now. Indeed, we
are told that we always misunderstood the meaning of the word 'repentance';
and that it simply means a 'change of mind,' and nothing more. I wish
that those who are so wise in their Greek knew a little more of that language,
for they would not be so ready with their infallible statements. True,
the word does signify a change of mind, but in its Scriptural connection
it indicates a change of mind of an unusual character. It is not such
a fitful thing as men mean when they speak of changing their minds, as
some people do fifty times a day; but it is a change of mind of a deeper
kind. Gospel repentance is a change of mind of the most radical sort ----such
a change as never was wrought in any man except by the Spirit of God.
We mean to teach repentance, the old-fashioned repentance, too; and I
do not know a better description of it than the child's verse: ----
'Repentance is to leave
The things we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.'
Let every man understand that he will never have remission of sin while
he is in love with sin; and that if he abides in sin he cannot obtain
the pardon of sin. There must be a hatred of sin, a loathing of it, and
a turning from it, or it is not blotted out. We are to preach repentance
as a duty. 'The times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth
all men everywhere to repent.Repent, and be baptized every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.' He that has
sinned is bound to repent of having sinned: it is the least that he can
do. How can any man ask God for mercy while he abides in his sin?
We are to preach the acceptableness of repentance. In itself considered
there is nothing in repentance deserving of the favour of God; but, the
Lord Jesus Christ having come, we read, 'He that confesseth and forsaketh
his sin shall find mercy.' God accepts repentance for the sake of his
dear Son. He smiles upon the penitent sinner, and puts away his iniquities.
This we are to make known on all sides.
And all this, recall, in the same sermon with the seemingly easy-believe
statement quoted above.
Now to return to the little paper on Charles Spurgeon and Lordship
Salvation, the tenth and final comment which it makes is this: For
a wonderful sermon by Spurgeon dealing with the question of what a person
needs to do to be saved, see his sermon entitled 'The Warrant of Faith'...
This, I suppose, should come as no surprise. In The Warrant of Faith
we see Spurgeon at his worst, the nearest he comes to rank antinomianism,
and the farthest from the plain truths of the gospel which he preached
so forcefully at other times. It is very significant that men who dwell
in the antinomian climate of the modern church should single out this
sermon, and endeavor to make it representative of Spurgeon's position,
but is this fair? Why does this paper not say, For a wonderful sermon
by Spurgeon dealing with the question of what a person needs to do to
be saved, see his sermon entitled 'Turn or Burn'?
not The Prodigal's Return? ----why not Two Essential
Things? (repentance and faith) ----why not Christ's
First and Last Subject? (repentance) ----in all of which Spurgeon
preaches with great forcefulness that if men do not entirely forsake every
known sin they must be damned. Obviously those sermons do not suit the
writer's theology, but is it fair utterly to ignore all of Spurgeon's
explicit and forceful sermons on the necessity of repentance and holiness,
and hold forth one sermon on the other side, which appears to undermine
them, and pose this single sermon as a proper specimen of Spurgeon's preaching?
It is no use to tell me that if Spurgeon preached this he could not have
held that, when both appear in plain black and white in his books. You
may tell me he was inconsistent, but it is no use to tell me that if he
preached the sermon on The Warrant of Faith, he could not
have held repentance and discipleship as necessary to salvation, when
I have proved by his own words that he did. I know he was inconsistent.
I have said so numerous times. He sometimes preached with great clarity
the sound doctrines for which I contend, and at other times preached almost,
if not quite, as though he were an antinomian. There are many who preach
the grace of God in such an unguarded fashion as to make impenitent, unholy,
and antinomian converts, but as soon as they are made they turn round
the other way, and preach holiness, telling them they are not converted,
and never will be so long as they walk in their sins. Spurgeon himself
describes this kind of preaching, and its deleterious effects, as follows:
I think I am not suspicious without reason when I express a fear
that the preaching which has lately been very common, and in some respects
very useful, of 'only believe and you shall be saved,' has sometimes been
altogether mistaken by those who have heard it. Cases occur in which young
persons go on living light, frivolous, giddy, and even wicked lives, and
yet they assert that they believe in Jesus Christ. When you come to examine
them a little you find that their belief in Christ means that they believe
he has saved them, although everybody who knows their character can see
clearly that they are not saved at all: now, what is their faith but the
belief of a lie? They are living just as they did live, and hence it is
clear that they are not saved from their former foolish conversation,
nor from their bad tempers, nor from their old sins; and yet they try
to persuade themselves that they are saved. Now, true faith never believes
falsehoods: presumption lives upon lies, but faith will only feed on truth.
My faith does not teach me to believe I am saved when straight before
my very eyes I have the evidence that I am not saved, since I am living
in the very sin I pretend to be saved from. Though we would not for a
moment cast a doubt upon the doctrine of justification by faith and free
salvation, we must also preach more and more that parallel truth, 'Ye
must be born again.' We must bring to the front that grand old word which
has been thrown into the background by some evangelists, namely, 'Repent.'
Repentance is as essential to salvation as faith: indeed there is no faith
without repentance except the faith which needs to be repented of.
Now observe, Repentance is as essential to salvation as faith.
This puts beyond doubt or cavil what sort of gospel Spurgeon preached,
for in numerous places he defines repentance as the hating, renouncing,
and forsaking of every sin. If repentance is no condition of salvation
in Spurgeon's gospel, then neither is faith. He objects to the preaching
of only believe, without repentance, but his objections are
too mild. He admits that such preaching makes false converts, but for
this he lays the blame on the wrong shoulders. The blame for these false
converts lies not in their having altogether mistaken the
purport of the preaching, but in the preaching itself, which is directly
calculated to deceive them. Only believe and you shall be saved
is not the gospel of the Bible, but a departure from it, and those false
conversions which he laments are the natural fruit of such preaching.
Christ and all his apostles preached Repent ye, and believe.
So did Spurgeon, throughout his life. He contends for it in the paragraph
just quoted, making repentance and faith parallel truths, and equally
essential to salvation. Alas, he often preached only believe
himself. Yet observe, he never said, You have nothing to do but
believe, for when he preached only believe he meant
to include repentance and obedience, not to exclude them. Witness the
following, taken from a single paragraph: Christ is the great substitute
for sin. If you trust him you shall live. If you will take him this day
to be your Saviour, and to be your Master and your Lord, you shall never
perish, for God has pledged his word for it, that if you believe in him
you shall be saved. ... Only believe in Jesus, and thou shalt live; for
this is the gospel, etc. In his preaching of only believe,
he included submission to Christ as Lord, and he evidently assumed that
others did so also
----else how could he complain of sinners altogether
mistaking the meaning of it? One thing is certain. When modern preachers
cite Spurgeon's one-sided preaching of faith, in an attempt to exclude
repentance and discipleship, it is Spurgeon's own testimony that they
altogether mistake his meaning.
Elsewhere Spurgeon explains what he means by only believe,
in the following forceful language. Now, Jesus Christ never sent
me, or any other minister, to preach to you and say, 'Only believe, and
you may live as you like, and yet be saved.' Such preaching would be a
lie. It is true that we say 'only believe,' but that 'only believing'
must be such a believing that you do what Jesus bids you; for Jesus has
not promised to save you in your sins, but from your sins, just as a physician
does not pretend to heal a man while he feeds his disease and refuses
the remedy, but only promises that he will benefit him if the faith which
he expects him to exercise shows itself to be a practical and real faith.
Beware of a liar's faith; and that is a liar's faith which you pretend
to get at a revival meeting, if you then go and live just as you did before.
'Faith must obey her Maker's will,
As well as trust his grace.
A gracious God is jealous still,
For his own holiness.'
So Christ says, 'Take my yoke': that is, 'If you will be saved by me I
must be your Master, and you must be my servant; you cannot have me for
a Saviour if you do not accept me for a Lawgiver and Commander. If you
will not do as I bid you, neither shall you find rest to your souls.'
Henceforth, then, when men find only believe in the sermons
of Spurgeon, let them understand that this is what he means by it, by
his own explicit declaration
----and he could scarcely have spoken
But Spurgeon's preaching was never very consistent. He often enforced
the necessity of repentance and obedience with great clarity and power,
and at other times preached as though they did not exist. I see both sides
in his works
----sometimes in the same sermon ----and plainly
avow it. But some of my opponents wish to deny the existence of the one
side, that they might maintain the other, and when I point out to them
the places in which Spurgeon preached the claims of holiness for which
I stand, they are not inclined to admit it. It seems they think he could
not have preached these things, or could not have meant them, since elsewhere
he sang the soft siren song which the present generation loves so well,
of no terms or conditions ----and I am accused of misinterpreting
him and misusing him.
But to this I plead
----not guilty. Let my readers understand, I
occupy the place of the underdog. I know that every word I speak on the
subject will be challenged by all the greatness and prestige and honor
and position which the modern church can muster. I know that every quotation
I offer will be sifted with the utmost rigor, and that if the sifting
turns up nothing, prejudice will supply what is lacking. I therefore sift
every word most rigorously myself, before I venture to claim it or use
it or print it. I claim nothing which is not explicit and unequivocal
and indisputable. I would be a fool to do otherwise. But in reality, I
have no need of such motives. I have a greater and a purer. I love the
truth. If I were absolutely certain that I could succeed in misusing or
misinterpreting Spurgeon ----that none of my opponents would ever
discover the trick ----I would disdain to do it. I would contemn
and abhor such a proceeding. I will not so much as conceal the fact ----which
most of my opponents probably do not know, and doubtless would never discover ----that
in a four-page gospel tract on The Brazen Serpent Spurgeon
preaches Look and live in as unguarded a fashion as any antinomian
could wish, never mentioning anything resembling repentance, and saying,
He had nothing to do but to look. There is life in a look at Jesus;
is not this simple enough? It is nothing uncommon for Spurgeon to
preach so, but then it is just as common for him to insist in the strongest
and most explicit terms that no sinner can be saved until he hates, renounces,
and forsakes his sins. What he fails to mention ----or even seems
to disallow ----on some occasions cannot be used to set aside what
he explicitly declares on many other occasions.
But it may be said that I misuse Spurgeon unwittingly, unconsciously,
unintentionally. My bad Arminian theology misleads me. I think not. My
theology does not deprive me of reason, nor of an understanding of plain
English. Let my opponents show me wherein I have mistaken Spurgeon's meaning.
To speak plainly, let them show me how, on any principles of truth or
grammar or rectitude, the words which I have quoted from Spurgeon can
be made to mean nothing at all, or to mean the direct opposite of what
they say. This, and nothing less than this, is really the task before
them. Spurgeon says, after rehearsing the terms of discipleship as laid
down by Christ in the Gospels, Is there any getting to heaven without
this cost? No. But may we not be Christians without these sacrifices?
You may be counterfeits, you may be hypocrites, you may be brethren of
Judas, but you cannot be real Christians. This cost is unavoidable, it
cannot be bated one solitary mite. And in the wake of such words
as these it is suggested I am misreading and misusing Spurgeon, to affirm
that he held discipleship as necessary to salvation.
Nor is it any use to tell me what was preached on the occasion of Spurgeon's
conversion. I have known that for many years. But I know also, as a plain
matter of fact, that Spurgeon himself very often preached those very things
which were not mentioned in the sermon which was used in his own conversion.
And neither did he preach them merely as the results of salvation
perhaps when he was singing the syren song of Calvinism ----but
as the conditions of it. He did not merely say if you are saved,
you will do these things, (though he says that also), but if
you would be saved, you must do them. Read again the declaration
which I quoted from him last October: Now, no man who fails in this
respect can enter heaven. Christ will save you, but a part of the agreement
on your part MUST be this: 'Ye are not your own, but are bought with a
price.' If you would have Christ's blood to redeem you, you must give
up to Christ your self, ----your body, your soul, your spirit, your
substance, your talents, your time, your all. ... He claims that you do
now make over, if you would be saved, yourself and everything you have
by an indefeasible title-deed to the great Lord of all whose you must
be. If you would be saved by the blood of Jesus, you are not from this
day to choose your own pleasures, nor your own ways, nor your own thoughts,
nor to serve yourselves, nor live for yourselves or for your own aggrandisement.
If you would be saved, you must believe what he tells you, do what he
bids you, and live only to serve and honour him.
He does not speak to those who are saved, but to those who would be, and
tells them what they must do if they would be saved. He tells them what
their part of the agreement with Christ must be, namely, an unreserved
and unconditional surrender to him of all that they are and all that they
have, and that they must do this now, if they would be saved. All this
is too clear to be mistaken. If this is English, and not some exotic tongue
we have never read before, then it is as plain as the shining of the sun
that Spurgeon makes these terms the conditions of salvation.
But perhaps we ought not to be too hard on our Calvinistic opponents,
for it is one of the peculiarities of the Genevan tongue
correctly termed double-talk ----always to reverse the cart and
the horse, no matter how many legs may appear on the horse, or wheels
on the cart. If the words of Christ and his apostles may be turned awry
and set topsy-turvy, in order to fit the theology of the reader, why should
those of Spurgeon fare any the better? The great Chillingworth, in enforcing
the terms of discipleship, was obliged to lament the effects of this backwards
interpretation nearly four centuries ago. Says he, I know not how,
since our divinity has been imprisoned and fettered in theses and distinctions
[in Calvinism, that is], we have lost this word law; and men will by no
means endure to hear that Christ came to command us any thing, or that
he requires any thing at our hands: he is all taken up in promise: all
those precepts which are found in the gospel are nothing, in these men's
opinions, but mere promises of what God will work in us, I know not how,
sine nobis [without ourselves], though indeed they be delivered in fashion,
Those who are accustomed to interpreting the Bible in such a manner may
perhaps have some excuse if they interpret Spurgeon after the same fashion,
and so turn his plain conditions into rightful results. But
the real fact is, they have no excuse for so interpreting the Bible. We
do not excuse the man who does not believe in miracles, if he so interprets
the Bible as to find no miracles therein. No more ought we to excuse the
man who does not believe in conditions, if he so contrives to interpret
the Bible as to find no conditions there. Neither the one nor the other
can deal fairly with the contents of the book. Let them now interpret
Conjurske by the same rule, and they will find him as antinomian as anybody
But my readers will perceive that I am not above a little irony. 'Tis
true, and my only apology for it is this, that I aim to be both interesting
and convincing, and I suppose that in the present case a little irony
will serve both these ends better than anything else. But I advise my
readers that my irony is of the most friendly sort, for I love my opponents,
though I love not the Genevan brogue, nor the antinomian accent. Yet I
understand how easily and unconsciously these accents take possession
of us, unless we consciously resist them, when we live among a people
whose tongues are turned that way
----and how difficult it is to
shake them off, when once acquired. I once spoke with the same accent
myself. It took five years of searching ere I understood how to shake
it off, though it was my constant study in all that time to come at the
plain truth of Scripture.
But we must examine this sermon on The Warrant of Faith, which
the little paper on Charles Spurgeon and Lordship Salvation
recommends to us. And the first thing which plainly appears is that this
is one of Spurgeon's Calvinistic rhapsodies, in which he almost (not quite)
denies the plain gospel truths which he so forcefully preaches elsewhere.
In this sermon he condemns the best of the Puritans
Alleine, and others ----and gives the palm to the worst of the antinomians ----Saltmarsh
and Crisp. So far is this sermon from the Bible and the usual Spurgeon
that I had not read half through it before I was fairly convinced that
it was derived from some antinomian book which he had been reading, and
before he is finished Spurgeon plainly avows this. He says on pages 539
& 540, I have read with some degree of attention a book to which
I owe much for this present discourse ----a book, by Abraham Booth,
called 'Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners.' I have never heard any one
cast a suspicion upon Abraham Booth's soundness; on the contrary, he has
been generally considered as one of the most orthodox of the divines of
the last generation. If you want my views in full, read his book. If you
need something more, let me say, among all the bad things which his revilers
have laid to his door, I have never heard any one blame William Huntingdon
[sic, and so throughout] for not being high enough in doctrine. Now, William
Huntingdon prefaced in his lifetime a book by Saltmarsh, with which he
was greatly pleased; and the marrow of its teaching is just this, in his
own words, 'The only ground for any to believe is, he is faithful that
hath promised, not anything in themselves, for this is the commandment,
That ye believe on his Son Jesus Christ.' Now, if William Huntingdon himself
printed such a book as that, I marvel how the followers of either William
Huntingdon or Abraham Booth, how men calling themselves Calvinistic divines
and high Calvinists, can advocate what is not free grace, but a legal,
graceless system of qualifications and preparations. I might here quote
Crisp, who is pat to the point and a high doctrine man too. I mention
neither Booth nor Huntingdon as authorities upon the subject, to the law
and to the testimony we must go; but I do mention them to show that men
holding strong views on election and predestination yet did see it to
be consistent to preach the gospel to sinners as sinners ----nay,
felt that it was inconsistent to preach the gospel in any other way.
Now observe, first, that Spurgeon places himself in bad company here.
Crisp and Saltmarsh were opposed by name as antinomians by John Flavel
and others, and in 1698 an anonymous book appeared bearing the title An
Apology for Congregational Divines against the charge of Crispianism or
Antinomianism, &c. In the following century Charles Wesley wrote
to John Fletcher, I was once on the brink of Antinomianism by unwarily
reading Crisp and Saltmarsh. Just then, warm in my first love, I was in
the utmost danger, when Providence threw in my way BAXTER'S treatise,
entitled, A Hundred Errors of Dr. Crisp demonstrated. Huntington
has been regarded as an antinomian by Calvinists from his own times to
the present, whether justly I am not prepared to say. It is certain he
says little enough that might guard against it. Abraham Booth was opposed
during his lifetime on the very matter in which Spurgeon follows him by
two prominent Calvinists, the Anglican Thomas Scott and the Baptist Andrew
Fuller. It should be understood that when Spurgeon refers to the soundness
of these men, he refers solely to their Calvinism
----for this sermon
is addressed to Calvinists as such. Three of the four of these men have
been commonly regarded as antinomians, but nobody doubted they were Calvinists.
But observe in the second place Spurgeon's purpose in this sermon on The
Warrant of Faith. That purpose was not to deny the necessity of
repentance and obedience to salvation, but rather to oppose the Calvinistic
notion which had been popularized by John Gill, that the gospel was not
to be preached to sinners as sinners
----for Calvinism has no salvation,
and therefore can have no sincere gospel for most of the sinners on earth.
If Christ did not die for them, there can be no salvation for them, and
what right or reason have they to believe in him? But Spurgeon did not
grapple with such difficulties at all, but only labored to prove that
sinners have the right and responsibility to believe, because God commands
them so to do.
It is Spurgeon's avowed purpose in this sermon to establish the fact that,
in spite of limited atonement and unconditional election, the gospel is
to be preached to sinners as sinners
----and as lost and undone
sinners, not as elect or regenerate sinners, whose election and regeneration
have been established by previous deeds or desires in themselves. This
he aims at, and so far so good, but he is ardent and immoderate; he overshoots
his mark, and gives an almost fatal thrust to that repentance and holiness
which he so forcefully preached himself on other occasions. But when the
preacher plainly avows his purpose in the sermon, it is really unfair
to use it to prove something else, even though in his immoderate zeal
he comes very close to asserting something else. This much is perfectly
1. He does not aim in this sermon to prove that repentance is not a condition
of salvation, but aims avowedly at something else.
2. He does not say in this sermon that repentance is unnecessary to salvation,
though he may seem to imply it.
3. He elsewhere, in numerous places, states most forcibly and explicitly
that repentance is a necessary condition of salvation.
4. It cannot be fair to use one unguarded utterance of a man, spoken while
he aims at proving something else, to disprove what he repeatedly and
explicitly asserts elsewhere.
The plain fact is, Spurgeon not only constantly preached repentance as
necessary to salvation, but he also preached it as necessary to faith
it as a necessary qualification both to permit and to enable
a sinner to believe. In volume XXXV of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,
page 128, he says, and says three times over, THOSE WHO HAVE EVANGELICAL
REPENTANCE ARE PERMITTED TO BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST. Paul says that he
testified of 'repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ';
and, therefore, where there is repentance, faith is allowable. O penitent
sinner, you may believe in the Saviour! This is sound, solid, and
unexceptionable, yet Spurgeon speaks it with an apology, and on the next
page, in order to maintain his Calvinism, he must contradict this sound
theology, and declare that he cannot tell which comes first, repentance
or faith. The fact is, he never ceases contradicting himself on this theme.
In a sermon entitled Faith and Repentance Inseparable, he
says, Many who truly repent are tempted to believe that they are
too great sinners for Christ to pardon. This is exactly the truth,
and certainly indicates that faith and repentance are two things, which
may be separated, and that repentance precedes faith. Yet before the preacher
finishes the paragraph, he says, That is not repentance, but a foul
sin against the infinite mercy of God. But if this is not
repentance, how is it that he says they truly repent?
The difficulty lies in his practically confounding faith and repentance,
by making them inseparable. What he ought to have said is, That
is not faith. He has already asserted that the man has truly repented.
And elsewhere he preached an entire sermon on Why Men Cannot Believe
in Christ, in which he makes the lack of repentance an insuperable
barrier to faith. They cannot believe because they do not repent. Sinful
pleasures, he says, are a great bar to faith, and must be
renounced. That evil companion who has charmed you with questionable jests
must be given up. Do you say that you cannot quit him? Then I see why
you cannot believe in Jesus. That house of unclean amusement, which leads
----unbelievers know that they must forsake it if they believe
in Christ, and they cannot believe because they love the place of temptation.
Again, Do not come whining to me about 'can't believe in Jesus Christ.'
Of course you cannot while you live in filthy lusts.
Some cannot believe, but why is it? Why, about once a fortnight,
or perhaps once a month, the bottle gets the upper hand of them; they
cannot believe; no, and there is another thing they cannot do, they cannot
walk straight. They cannot believe, but they could if they would fling
that brandy bottle out of the window.
This is sound practical theology, and a clear echo of the pure gospel
of the Son of God. As for Spurgeon's Warrant of Faith, this
is a poor performance. He did not derive it from the Bible, but from the
books of men of high (Calvinistic) doctrine, men holding
strong views on election and predestination, men with strong tendencies
----and he had read these Calvinistic and antinomian
works with little discernment. Like a great multitude of Calvinists both
before and since, he was simply enamored with anything which sang the
glories of free grace, and which debased sinful man, though it debased
him beneath the level of the beasts that perish, and deeply wounded the
IMAGE OF GOD in so doing.
But this sermon calls for a few further remarks. I observe first that
in several matters it stands directly against the Bible. In other matters
it is simply confused, for though he speaks much against repentance as
a qualification for believing, yet it almost seems that he studied to
misdefine the thing every time he spoke of it, so as to avoid saying anything
against that true repentance which he so often preached elsewhere. I observe
finally that, full of false and evil principles as this sermon is, it
is really more false in spirit than it is in substance, and will hardly
answer the ends of those who seek to employ it in favor of modern antinomianism,
for Spurgeon never sinks so low as to deny that repentance is necessary
at all. He only affirms that it is unnecessary as a warrant for faith.
But some of these things call for further elucidation.
In some matters this sermon stands directly against the Bible. He says
on page 537, I solemnly warn you, though you have been professors
of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for twenty years, if your reason for
believing in Christ lies in this, that you have felt the terrors of the
law; that you have been alarmed, and have been convinced; if your own
experience be your warrant for believing in Christ, it is a false reason,
and you are really relying upon your experience and not upon Christ: and
mark you, if you rely upon your frames and feelings, nay, if you rely
upon your communion with Christ, in any degree whatever, you are as certainly
a lost sinner as though you relied upon oaths and blasphemies; you shall
not more be able to enter heaven, even by the works of the Spirit
this is using strong language ----than by your own works; for Christ,
and Christ alone, is the foundation, and 'other foundation can no man
lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' Take care of resting in
your own experience.
Here I observe that the preacher states everything in its most extreme
form, that he might have a better target at which to shoot, but I aim
to answer the spirit of his remarks, without holding him to the letter
of what he says. Whatever may be said against relying on frames and feelings,
and resting in our own experience, instead of resting in Christ, the plain
doctrine of the Bible is this: And hereby we do know that we know
him, if we keep his commandments. While Spurgeon advises us to disregard
our own experience, and condemns the doctrine which has us always
looking within, the Bible says, And hereby we know that we
are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart
condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved,
if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
How do we know if we keep his commandments, without looking
within? How do we know if our heart condemn us not?
Certainly not by looking to Christ, entirely outside of ourselves
very idea is ludicrous ----but precisely by looking within,
and by this means have we confidence toward God. What Spurgeon
preaches here is blank antinomianism ----as directly against the
Bible as it is against what he preached himself in other places.
He has taken for his text, And this is his commandment, That we
should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and speaks throughout
as though believing were the only thing ever commanded us. In this also
he is against the Bible. How is it he has forgotten that God now
commandeth all men everywhere to repent? This he preached strongly
enough elsewhere, when he had not been reading antinomian books.
As to the confusion with which this sermon abounds, first, on the meaning
of repentance. He nowhere defines repentance, as he does in other sermons,
but seems rather to shun a plain description of it, as though he were
laboring to avoid a confrontation with a betrayed friend. He treats it
throughout as though it were but conviction, or sorrow, or feeling. Thus:
See, my brethren, if convictions of soul are necessary qualifications
for Christ, we ought to know to an ounce how much of these qualifications
are needed. If you tell a poor sinner that there is a certain amount of
humblings, and tremblings, and convictions, and heart-searchings to be
felt, in order that he may be warranted to come to Christ, I demand of
all legal-gospellers distinct information as to the manner and exact degree
of preparation required. Brethren will not agree, but will every one give
a different standard, according to his own judgment. One will say the
sinner must have months of law work: another, that he only needs good
desires; and some will demand that he possess the graces of the Spirit
as humility, godly sorrow, and love to holiness.
But all this is just casting dust in the air. Spurgeon knew better than
this. Only let him define repentance as he himself elsewhere defines it,
as the forsaking of sin, and all these objections evaporate at once. Let
Spurgeon himself extricate the reader from the confusion of this Calvinistic
jargon, and set the matter straight:
He says, And now I must notice, in the sixth place, the abundant
ease of the terms of pardon. When a man says he will forgive another and
does not mean it, he puts hard conditions, and says, 'I will forgive him
under certain circumstances, if he does this, and if he does that.' This
is not abundant pardon. It is a little niggardly spirit of forgiveness;
in fact, it is no forgiveness at all. But look how God puts it. Does he
say to a man, 'I will forgive you if you weep for seven years, or do penance
for a lifetime'; or 'I will forgive you if you bring so much gold or silver,
or promise this or promise that?' No, no, no. It is hearty forgiveness,
and therefore the terms are simple and easy. When I say 'terms' I merely
use the word from want of a better, for indeed the terms are no terms
at all. 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts,
and let him return unto the Lord, for he will have mercy upon him, and
to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.' That is all! No man can expect
to be forgiven if he goes on with his sin. You cannot expect God to pardon
that which you continue to provoke him with. That were absurd. The sin
must be given up.
Here, then, are Spurgeon's easy terms of pardon
than the forsaking of sin ----and thus does the usual Spurgeon lay
to rest all the dust which he had raised when his mind was fevered and
his vision blurred by the books of a little coterie of antinomian Calvinists.
But the confusion of The Warrant of Faith does not end here.
He accuses (pg. 531) some of the best of the Puritans, as Alleine and
Baxter, of being far better preachers of the law than of the gospel,
and says, (pg. 529) O, when will all professors, and especially
all professed ministers of Christ, learn the difference between the law
and the gospel? Most of them make a mingle-mangle, and serve out deadly
potions to the people, often containing but one ounce of gospel to a pound
of law, whereas, but even a grain of law is enough to spoil the whole
thing. But all the confusion here is in the mind of Spurgeon himself.
If the preachers of the gospel but preach the terms of the gospel, this
is not mixing law and grace. The law requires perfect obedience, and what
Puritan, what gospel-preacher, ever required this of any sinner? What
gospel preacher ever made men debtors to do the whole law,
as Paul describes it, and debtors to do it without lapse or omission?
These are the terms of the law. To preach repentance is not preaching
law, but gospel, as Spurgeon himself explicitly and forcefully contends
Yet here he asserts (pp. 532-533), Secondly, to tell the sinner
that he is to believe on Christ because of some warrant in himself, is
legal, I dare to say it
----legal. Though this method is generally
adopted by the higher school of Calvinists, they are herein unsound, uncalvinistic,
and legal; it is strange that they who are so bold defenders of free grace
should make common cause with Baxterians and Pelagians. Uncalvinistic
we grant. EVERY MAN WHO PREACHES THE PLAIN TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL MUST OF
NECESSITY BE UNCALVINISTIC. Spurgeon himself was very uncalvinistic in
much of his own preaching. But as for unsound and legal, these charges
must fall upon the Son of God as much as ever upon any Puritan. How
can ye believe, says he, which receive honour one of another,
and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Some heart work
must be done in themselves, and by themselves, ere they could believe.
And once more, For John came unto you in the way of righteousness,
and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him:
and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe
him. Their believing was dependent upon their repenting.
But Spurgeon was never a deep thinker. His sermons
the one on The Warrant of Faith ----were born rather
of deep feeling than of deep thought. This may make for earnest preaching,
but sometimes it makes for bad doctrine, and often for inconsistency.
But be that as it may, whatever he may seem to say or imply in this sermon,
the rest of his books and sermons prove indisputably that he held repentance
and discipleship as necessary to salvation. He insists everywhere that
both repentance and faith are necessary ----Two Essential
Things ----both mandated by the gospel ----both required
in order to salvation, and upon this he insisted from the beginning of
his ministry to the end of it. Even in the worst of his sermons, The
Warrant of Faith, he does not deny it. The purpose of this sermon
is to deny that the consciousness of penitence is necessary as the warrant
for believing, but zhe never denies that REPENTANCE ITSELF is necessary
to SALVATION. This he preached throughout his days. Even at his worst,
even in his most unguarded speech, even in his most abandoned Calvinistic
rhapsodies, he never stoops so low as modern antinomians. He never denies
the necessity of repentance and holiness to salvation, never opposes the
necessity of obedience and discipleship, though he may at times fail to
mention them. Even where we expect him to lift up the wrong standard ----even
where he handles those themes and texts which are commonly abused in favor
of Calvinism and antinomianism ----even there he often raises his
voice in favor of the truth of the gospel. Witness the following, in a
sermon on What is the Wedding Garment?
Now, beloved, one of the requirements of the feast is, that you
with your heart believe on the Lord Jesus, and that you take his righteousness
to be your righteousness. Do you refuse this? If you will not accept the
Lord Jesus as your substitute, bearing your sins in his own body on the
tree, you have not the wedding garment. Thus far every antinomian
will follow him, but here they will stop. Not so Spurgeon. What they will
regard as the only requirement is but one of the requirements
with him, and he proceeds, Another zrequirement is that you should
repent of sin and forsake it; and that you should follow after holiness,
and endeavour to copy the example of the Lord Jesus
to him a godly and upright character is an essential part
of the wedding garment ----and here he must leave the antinomians
And again, in a four-page tract on The Everlasting Robe, The
man who is just awakened, and finds that it is morning light, must first
of all put off the garments which covered him during the night. He quits
his bed, and in so doing shakes off his bed clothes and leaves them. Your
friends do not come down stairs wrapped in the sheets which wrapped them
at night; we should suppose they were seeking their graves if they did
so. The coverlet of night is not our covering by day. There must be a
putting off in the morning zbefore there can be a putting on; there is
a measure of undressing zbefore we commence to dress. Simple and homely
as the figure is, it conveys a lesson which I pray you to remember. Sins
and follies are to be cast off when we put on the garments of light. I
have known a man profess to be converted, but he has merely put religion
over his old character. He has been a passionate man with bad companions,
and all he has done is to carry his bad temper into a church-meeting.
He has been accustomed to drink more wine than is good for him, and all
the change is that he drinks it in respectable company or in secret. He
has taken up the saint without casting off the sinner. The rags of his
lust are rotting under the raiment of his profession. This will never
do; Christ has not come to save you in your sins but from your sins. Anger
and drunkenness, and such like, must be got rid of; Christ never came
that you might christen your anger by the name of warmth, and your drunkenness
with the name of liberty. I have heard of persons living unclean lives
who have heard that faith in Jesus Christ would save them, who have misunderstood
this doctrine so grievously that they have thought of believing in Christ,
and continuing in their evil ways. That attempt will be their ruin. Rahab
the harlot was saved by faith; but she was saved from being a harlot any
longer. The rags of sin must come off if we put on the robe of Christ.
There must be a taking away of the love of sin, there must be a renouncing
of the practices and habits of sin, or else a man cannot be a Christian.
It will be an idle attempt to try and wear religion as a sort of celestial
overall over the top of old sins. The King's daughter is all glorious
within, or she would never have received her clothing of wrought gold.
This tract makes the robe to be the righteousness of Christ, yet Spurgeon
insists that we must put off our sins ere we can put on that robe.
That he sometimes gave an uncertain sound I am very well aware. He sometimes
blew with great clarity the silver trumpet of pure gospel truth, but ever
and anon the sound was marred by the discordant strains of some syren
song which he attempted on the tin horn of Calvinism. This also was true
from the beginning to the end of his days, though we verily believe that
the blasts from the tin horn were more moderate in his later years, and
we are sure they ceased altogether when he entered the courts of heaven.
If, as he professed, he was humbled by his Calvinism while he walked the
earth, we are sure he was humbled for it as soon as ever he set foot on
the streets of gold. The repentance which he preached and practiced on
earth he doubtless carried with him to heaven, and we have little doubt
that one of those things of which he was most ashamed in the presence
of his Lord was the whole Calvinistic scheme in general, and in particular,
the misguided zeal of his sermon on The Warrant of Faith.
C. H. Spurgeon on the Terms of Salvation
In the next place, repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will
say, Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are
certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold. O sirs, in God's
name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins,
which is true repentance; it is the solemn renunciation of every sin.
If thou dost harbour one of those accursed vipers in thy heart, thy repentance
is but a sham. If thou dost indulge in but one lust, and dost give up
every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul.
Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices; fancy it not enough
to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which
God demands. Repent, says he; and when he bids you repent,
he means repent for all thy sins, otherwise he never can accept thy repentance
as being real and genuine. The true penitent hates sin in the race, not
in the individual
----in the mass, not in the particular. He says,
Gild thee as thou wilt, O sin, I abhor thee! Ay, cover thyself with
pleasure, make thyself gaudy, like the snake with its azure scales ----I
hate thee still, for I know thy venom, and I flee from thee, even when
thou comest to me in the most specious garb. All sin must be given
up, or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced,
or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you.
----Turn or Burn, The New Park Street Pulpit, by C.
H. Spurgeon. London: Passmore & Alabaster, vol. II (1856), pp. 418-419.
Conscience tells every man that if he would be saved he must get rid
of his sin. The Antinomian may possibly pretend to believe that men can
be saved while they live in sin; but conscience will never allow any man
to swallow so egregious a lie as that. I have not one person in this congregation
who is not perfectly assured that if he is to be saved he must leave off
his drunkenness and his vices. Sure there is not one here so stupified
with the laudanum of hellish indifference as to imagine that he can revel
in his lusts, and afterwards wear the white robe of the redeemed in Paradise.
If ye imagine ye can be partakers of the blood of Christ, and yet drink
the cup of Belial; if ye imagine that ye can be members of Satan and members
of Christ at the same time, ye have less sense than one would give you
credit for. No, you know that right arms must be cut off, and right eyes
----that the most darling sins must be renounced, if
ye would enter into the kingdom of God.
----The Prodigal's Return, ibid., vol. IV (1858), pg.
When we cry, Repent and be converted, there are some foolish
men who call us legal. Now we beg to state, at the opening of this first
point, that repentance is of gospel parentage. ... It is a remarkable
fact that the law itself makes no provision for repentance. It says, This
do, and thou shalt live; break my command, and thou shalt die. There
is nothing said about penitence; there is no offer of pardon made to those
that repent. The law pronounces its deadly curse upon the man that sins
but once, but it offers no way of escape, no door by which the man may
be restored to favour. ... Read attentively the twentieth chapter of Exodus.
You have the commandments there all thundered forth with trumpet voice,
but there is no pause between where Mercy with her silver voice may step
in and say, But if ye break this law, God will have mercy upon you,
and will shew himself gracious if ye repent. No words of repentance,
I say, were ever proclaimed by the law: no promise by it made to penitents;
and no assistance is by the law ever offered to those who desire to be
forgiven. Repentance is a gospel grace. Christ preached it, but not Moses.
----Christ's First and Last Subject, ibid., vol. VI
(1860), 1892, pg. 342.
While the gospel is a command, it is a two-fold command explaining itself.
Repent ye, and believe the gospel.
I know some very excellent brethren
----would God there were more
like them in zeal and love ----who, in their zeal to preach up simple
faith in Christ have felt a little difficulty about the matter of repentance;
and I have known some of them who have tried to get over the difficulty
by softening down the apparent hardness of the word repentance, by expounding
it according to its more usual Greek equivalent, a word which occurs in
the original of my text, and signifies to change one's mind.
Apparently they interpret repentance to be a somewhat slighter thing than
we usually conceive it to be, a mere change of mind, in fact. Now, allow
me to suggest to these dear brethren, that the Holy Ghost never preaches
repentance as a trifle; and the change of mind or understanding of which
the gospel speaks is a very deep and solemn work, and must not on any
account be depreciated. ... There must be sorrow for sin and hatred of
it in true repentance, or else I have read my Bible to little purpose.
In very truth, I think there is no necessity for any other definition
than that of the children's hymn ----
Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve,
By doing so no more.
To repent does mean a change of mind; but then it is a thorough change
of the understanding and all that is in the mind, so that it includes
an illumination, an illumination of the Holy Spirit; and I think it includes
a discovery of the iniquity and hatred of it, without which there can
hardly be a genuine repentance. We must not, I think, undervalue repentance.
It is a blessed grace of God the Holy Spirit, and it is absolutely necessary
----The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, by C. H. Spurgeon. London:
Passmore & Alabaster, vol. VIII, (1862), pp. 399-400.
You cannot indulge known sin, and yet enter heaven. Well soul, God says
to you this morning, Wilt thou have thy sins and go to hell, or
wilt give them up, and trust in Christ and be saved. That alternative
is put before you. May you have grace to make the right choice. But your
sin must be given up. I am not here to flatter you, and tell you that
you can cheat in business, or indulge lasciviousness, or live in the neglect
of the house of God, or be a drunkard, and yet enter into heaven. You
cannot have eternal life, and yet fondle these things in your bosom. You
cannot be perfect, but you must be willing to be so, and anxious to be
so. No sin nurtured in the heart can be compatible with salvation; you
must wish to sweep them all away, and in the Holy Spirit's strength. You
must do it, too, as God shall help you; or else, if you cling to sin,
you cling to destruction. Oh, but what sins can be so sweet as to be worth
giving up the harps of angels, and worth the endurance of
The flames which no abatement know,
Though briny tears for ever flow.
----ibid., vol. XIV (1868), pg. 21.
Repent signifies, in its literal meaning, to change one's mind. It has
been translated, after-wit, or after-wisdom; it
is the man's finding out that he was wrong, and rectifying his judgment.
But although that be the meaning of the root, the word has come in scriptural
use to mean a great deal more. Perhaps there is no better definition of
repentance than that which is given in our little children's hymn-book
Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve,
By doing so no more.
Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have
committed it, a resolution to forsake it.
----ibid., pg. 195.
What, a thief pardoned and continue to thieve! A harlot forgiven and
remain unchaste! The drunkard forgiven and yet delight in his tankards!
Truly, then, the gospel would be the servant of unrighteousness, and against
us who preach it morality should make a law. But it is not so, impenitent
sinners shall be damned, let them boast what they will about grace. My
hearer, thou must hate thy sin, or God will hate thee. Thou must turn
or burn. Thou canst not have thy sins and go to heaven. Which shall it
be? Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or hold thy sins and go
to hell? Which shall it be, for it must be one or the other; there must
be a divorce between us and sin, or there cannot be a marriage between
us and Christ.
----ibid., pg. 201.
In others it is not pride, but an unholy resolve to retain some favourite
sin. ... In some cases we have found out that the sorrowing person indulged
still in a secret vice, or kept the society of the ungodly, or was undutiful
to parents, or unforgiving, or slothful, or practised that hideous sin,
secret drunkenness. In any such case, if the man resolves, I will
not give up this sin, do you wonder if he is not comforted? Would
not it be an awful thing if he were? When a man carries a corroding substance
within his soul, if his wound is filmed over, an internal disease will
come of it and prove deadly. I pray God none of you may ever get comfort
till you get rid of every known sin and are able to say
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee.
There must be a plucking out of the right eye and a losing of the right
arm, if we are to inherit eternal life.
----ibid., vol. XV, (1869),
And then let it always be known that submission to God is absolutely
necessary to salvation. A man is not saved until he bows before the supreme
majesty of God. He may say, I believe in Jesus, but if he
goes on to follow out his own desires, and to gratify his own passions,
he is a mere pretender, a wolf in the clothing of a sheep. Dead faith
will save no man; it is not even as good as the faith of devils, for they
believe and tremble, and these men believe in a fashion which
makes them brazen in their iniquity. No, salvation means being saved from
the domination of self and sin; salvation means being made to long after
likeness to God, being helped by divine grace to reach to that likeness,
and living after the mind and will of the Most High. Submission to God
is the salvation which we preach, not a mere deliverance from eternal
burnings, but deliverance from present rebellion, deliverance from the
sin which is the fuel of those flames unquenchable. There must be conformity
to the eternal laws of the universe, and according to these God must be
first and man must bow to him: nothing can be right till this is done.
Submit is a command which in every case must be obeyed, or no peace or
salvation will be found.
----ibid., vol. XXIV, (1878), pg. 208.
This is the long and the short of it: you must, as a guilty sinner, cast
yourself at God's feet and say, Have mercy upon me, O Lord, and
have mercy upon me in thine own way. ... I do from my very heart give
up the love of sin. ... I make no terms nor conditions; mine is an unconditional
surrender. ... ...Submission is essential to salvation, therefore
bow before the Lord at once. ... If you will not submit, your faith is
a lie, your hope is a delusion, your prayer is an insult, your peace is
presumption, your end will be despair.
----ibid., pp. 212-213.
The next precept is, Cleanse your hands, ye sinners. What!
does the word of God tell sinners to cleanse their hands and purify their
hearts? Yes, it does. Some brother whispers, Ah, that is Arminianism.
Who art thou that repliest against God's word? If such teaching is in
this inspired book, how dare we question it? It comes with a thus
saith the Lord,
----Cleanse your hands, ye sinners.
When a man comes to God and says, I am willing and anxious to be
saved, and I trust Christ to save me, and yet he keeps his dirty
black hands exercised in filthy actions, doing what he knows is wrong,
does he expect God to hear him? Do I need spend even so many as a half-dozen
words to show that this man does not believe and is not really honest
before the Most High? Cleanse your hands, ye sinners. Can
you ask God to be at peace with you while your hands grasp your sins with
loving embrace and are full of bribes, or are foul with lust, or are smiting
with the fist of anger and wrath? If you do the devil's work with your
hands, do not expect the Lord to fill them with his blessing. It cannot
be, you must break off your sins by righteousness, and as Paul shook off
the viper from his hand into the fire, so must you. By the power of faith,
if it be a real faith, you will be able to purge your outward life. Why,
when men talk about being spiritual, and are not even decently moral,
it makes us sick to hear them. How dare they talk about being Christians
when they do not live as well as Mohammedans or heathens? Oh ye dogs,
howling out your shame, what portion have you among the children so long
as you bite and devour and love your filthiness? It is idle to talk about
salvation while sin is hugged to the heart with both hands. Away with
----ibid., pp. 214-215.
Darling sins are sure destroyers. We must give up sin, or give up hope
of heaven. John Bunyan, in his Holy War, describes Sweet-sin hold
as a favourite fortress of Satan, which long held out against Prince Immanuel.
Oh that we could raze it to the ground! My hearer, wilt thou have thy
sin and go to hell, or wilt thou leave thy sin and go to heaven? Thou
canst not take sin with thee into God's rest, neither canst thou be Satan's
darling and God's favourite.
----ibid., vol. XXVI (1880), pg. 444.
Now, then, trust Jesus, so as to be obedient to him, and he will pilot
you safely. Yield yourself up to follow his example, to imitate his spirit,
and obey his commands, and you are a saved man. Your ship shall not be
driven out to sea while Jesus steers it; but do not go away under the
delusion that you have only to say, I trust Christ, and that
you are saved directly. Nothing of the kind. You must really trust him
trust him, or there is no hope for you. Give yourself up to Jesus, renounce
your old sins, forsake your old habits, live as Christ will enable you
to live, and immediately you shall find peace to your soul. You cannot
enjoy rest, and yet riot in sin. Shall the drunkard have rest, and yet
drown his soul in his cups? Shall an adulterer have rest, and wallow in
filthiness? Shall a man blaspheme, and have rest? Shall a man be a rogue
and a liar, and have rest? Impossible. These things must be given up by
coming to Jesus Christ, who will help you to give them up, and make a
new man of you, and then you shall receive rest in your soul.
----ibid., vol. XXVIII, (1882), pp. 657-658.
You must enter upon God's service also for life; not to be sometimes
God's servant and sometimes not
----off and on. ... If you become
the servant of God you must be his servant every day and all the day for
ever and ever.
'Tis done, the great transaction's done:
I am my Lord's, and he is mine,
must be a covenant declaration which must stand true throughout the entire
life. And if you become the servant of God you must cease from every known
sin. You cannot give one hand to Christ and another to Satan. You must
give up the dearest sins. Sweet sin must become bitter. If sins are like
right hands or right eyes they must be cut off or plucked out, and you
must follow Christ fully, giving him all your heart, and soul, and strength;
for if it be not so, you cannot be his disciple.
----ibid., vol. XXIX, (1883), pg. 511.
And now to conclude. I want to address the seeking sinner. ...
Do I need to say that you cannot be saved by your works? Do I need to
repeat it over and over that nothing you do can deserve mercy? Salvation
must be the free gift of God. But this is the point. God will give pardon
to a sinner, and peace to a troubled heart, on certain lines. Are you
on those lines wholly? If so, you will have peace; and if you have not
that peace, something or other has been omitted. To begin with, the first
thing is faith. ... I have no peace, says one. Hast thou unfeignedly
repented of sin? Is thy mind totally changed about sin, so that what thou
didst once love thou dost now hate, and that which thou didst once hate
thou dost now love? Is there a hearty loathing, and giving up, and forsaking
of sin? Do not deceive yourself. You cannot be saved in your sins; you
are to be saved from your sins. You and your sins must part, or else Christ
and you will never be joined. See to this. Labour to give up every sin,
and turn from every false way, else your faith is but a dead faith, and
will never save you.
----ibid., vol. XXXI, (1885), pg. 178.
Let me press you with a home-question,
----will you be obedient
to Jesus in everything?
----nor of the terms complain ----
Where Jesus comes he comes to reign.
If you would have Christ for a Saviour, you must also take him for a King.
----ibid., pg. 179.
Abraham's servant may have thought: She may refuse to make so great a
change as to quit Mesopotamia for Canaan. She had been born and bred away
there in a settled country, and all her associations were with her father's
house; and to marry Isaac she must tear herself away. So, too, you cannot
have Jesus, and have the world too; you must break with sin to be joined
to Jesus. You must come away from the licentious world, the fashionable
world, the scientific world, and from the (so-called) religious world.
If you become a Christian, you must quit old habits, old motives, old
ambitions, old pleasures, old boasts, old modes of thought. All things
must become new. You must leave the things you have loved, and seek many
of those things which you have hitherto despised. There must come to you
as great a change as if you had died, and were made over again. You answer,
Must I endure all this for One whom I have never seen, and for an
inheritance on which I have never set my foot? It is even so. Although
I am grieved that you turn away, I am not in the least surprised, for
it is not given to many to see him who is invisible, or to choose the
strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life.
----ibid., vol. XXXIV, (1888), pg. 558.
There are men in the world who want to go to heaven; but they want to
keep on the road to hell, and yet get to heaven. They would get to the
north by travelling to the south. There are some who would go home to
their Father; but they would like to take the swine, and the swine-troughs,
and the husks with them. A pretty sight that prodigal would have been,
would he not, driving the hogs, and carrying the hog-troughs on his back,
to his father's house? Such a picture is not to be imagined. It never
existed in fact, and never can. John Bunyan tells us that, when he was
playing at a game of cat one Sunday, on Elstow Green, as he
was going to strike the cat with his stick, he thought he heard a voice,
crying, Wilt thou keep thy sins, and go to hell; or wilt thou give
up thy sins, and go to heaven? That question, without an angel's
voice, you may hear at this moment. I put it now to some of you who would
like to keep your sins, and yet go to heaven. You lament after the Lord.
You would be a saint; but then you want to be a sinner, too. You would
be a child of God; but then you would not like to turn out of the devil's
family. You would not like to be ridiculed by the world. No, you want
the crown without the cross. You want the end without the way. You want
heaven without holiness, and forgiveness without repentance; and this
can never be.
----ibid., vol. XXXVII, (1891), pg. 461.
Ah, you cannot keep your sin and go to heaven! Unchastity, fornication,
adultery, uncleanness of body
----these must be given up. God is
ready to forgive the harlot and the fornicator; but they must quit their
sins, once for all, and for ever. You cannot lie in the sty, and yet go
home to your Father. This abominable thing must be totally given up, and
never thought of again, if you would be forgiven and saved. ...
How many do I know, too, who have for an idol the god of drink! Old Bacchus
sits astride not only of the wine-cask, but of many a man's heart. ...
Sir, you must quit strong drink if you would be saved. No drunkard has
any inheritance in the kingdom of God, and drunkenness must be given up,
and chambering, and wantonness, and gluttony, and all the sins of the
----ibid., pg. 463.
My text is all about repentance; it is an exhortation from God, very
brief, and sententious, but very earnest and plain: Return ye now
every one from his evil way. ... God help you to listen to the call,
and to obey it! It is a message of mercy, and it means that God would
have you saved, and therefore he cries to you, Return, because
he is willing to receive you, and to blot out all your sin.
But remember that is equally the call of a holy God, the God who knows
that you cannot be saved except you turn from your evil ways. A holy God
will give no salvation to the man who continues in his unrighteousness.
There is no heaven for the man who will not leave his sin. Thou must quit
thy sin, or renounce all hope of salvation; thou must turn or burn; thou
must repent or perish. God's unsullied holiness will never alter this
law, thou must be driven from his face in the day of his wrath unless
thou dost turn from thy evil way in the day of his mercy. Hope not that
there shall be any exception made for thee to this rule, for there shall
----ibid., vol. XLIII, (1897), pg. 590.
But when you are hearing the gospel, be not content with merely hearing,
but repent straightway. You cannot have Christ and keep your
sins; therefore give up all evil at once.
----ibid., vol. XLV,
(1899), pg. 187.
[Reader! is not this enough?
----enough to leave no doubt in the
mind of any honest man that Spurgeon held the universal forsaking of all
sin and unconditional surrender to Christ to be essential to salvation ----as
essential as faith ----and that this was his message from the beginning
to the end of his days? And I have only made a selection. I have consulted
but half the volumes of Spurgeon's sermons, but the messsage is the same
everywhere. And I direct all cavillers to observe that the preacher does
not say, If you are saved, you will do these things ----no,
but If you would be saved, you must. ----You must
do so, or you cannot be saved. If you have any doubt of this, review
the quotations again. ----editor.]
OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without
alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise,
and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own position is to be learned from his own writings.