Church Controversy

This is a book review of “The Forgotten Spurgeon” by I.H. Murray. It is NOT a biography about Charles Spurgeon; it is however about the three controversies that Spurgeon incited by his prolific, Holy Spirit inspired sermons.  Known around the globe as the grandpa of evangelism, CH Spurgeon was a generous man with a genuine loving character who followed the narrow road which our Father warned us about. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

Spurgeon’s spiritual thoughts with regard to the 3 great controversies about his ministry:

1) The Diluted Gospel of 1850 – Spurgeon was intent on restoring the whole truth. He was opposed to terms that divided the brethren. Reformation theology should not be assigned to a mortal man, or to any particular denomination. To Spurgeon, because the term denomination, is not found in the Bible, it was a way to divide the Body of Chris.  A system of sound theology about the doctrine of our Lord’s Sovereign Grace, belongs entirely to the Scriptures. “None would be saved except by the effectual grace of God. Faith is reason at rest in God.” Charles Spurgeon

2) Baptismal Regeneration June 5, 1864 The most circulated of all his sermons which today is on YouTube. Mark 16:15-16 “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Jesus gives us insight into the men he selected to be those that would preach the truth. On several occasions Jesus needed to rebuke them for their lack of faith. The Lord chose imperfect, mostly uneducated men who were very weak in the their undeveloped faith. Jesus said “get behind me Satan” when unbelief was present. They were not all natural orators,  but the power of God was at work in them. In Hebrews chapter 11, in the hall of the faithful, not one was perfect. It is a labor to walk in holiness and we are all called to be holy – to be holy requires sacrifice and the admission and renunciation of our will and ways. Ordinary people and preachers grieve over their foolishness as they ponder the grace of God.  The work of God must not rest on any man, but entirely on the Word of God. Our Father uses whom that He chooses so that none of His glory will be tarnished by mortal man. “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:14-15

3) The Down-Grade Movement of 1887 The Protestant Church was dominant in England. On Sunday morning it was fashionable to attend churches that did not lack wealth, men, or dignity. But it in the eyes of Spurgeon the church lacked the power of God.  There was a general tendency to forget the difference between human learning and the truth as revealed by the Spirit of God. Eloquent preachers filled the pulpits but there was a marked absence of the Presence of God. For such a times as this, Spurgeon was chosen by God to rattle the traditions and wake up souls. A minister named John Angell James wrote in 1851 “I do not think I ever preached with less saving results since I was a minister; and this is the case with most others. It is a general complaint.” This was true for the pulpit that young Spurgeon filled at the age of 20 in April of 1854. The church reached back into the 17th century, but attendance had woefully declined. Shortly after his first sermon at new Park Street in London, he was called to begin a pastorate. Spurgeon was there for 38 years. In 1857 Spurgeon said “In one year it was my happiness personally to see not less than 1,000 who had been converted.”

During this time Spurgeon was being bitterly persecuted. At the age of 22, his wife reminded him; “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven. “

Charles Spurgeon was a mighty teacher of the grace of God. It has been written that he was the last of the Puritans, a man who upheld the old fashioned Gospel. He proclaimed the truth of Divine Election, he gloried in the precious blood of Jesus and he was discredited by the church at large as not being a theologian – even while he held fast to a systematic theology throughout his vast written sermons which matched the orderly and systematic, perfect Word of God.  The main factor in each controversy was scriptural not personal. In his autobiography ‘The Sword and the Trowel” Spurgeon wrote to his students; “In a little while I shall be gone from you…then what are you going to do? I charge you, be faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of His grace.” Spurgeon was a man of granite who thundered out to his generation the timeless truths of the Word of God. His listening congregation was thought to reach more than a million souls.  By 1899 over a hundred million of his sermons had been issued in 23 languages. God calls preachers to preach but He does not leave them alone in the pulpit. He prepares those He calls and He appoints a specific time for their personality and voice to represent Him.  Spurgeon was schooled in the church by his parents and grandparents. He had natural gifts, however, by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, Spurgeon was properly fitted by God to reap a vast harvest in English church history. In 1887 at the age of 53 Spurgeon said “Long ago I ceased to count heads, the whole truth is usually in the minority in this evil world.” His legacy is not his oratory skill or his personality – these are of the flesh. His consistent testimony to the whole counsel of God honors King Jesus. The principle Spurgeon held so tenaciously to was that the Lord alone must be ever before our eyes – and His honor the ultimate motive in our heart and actions. He wrote “It is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all His crown rights and stand up for every word of His laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves? I earnestly entreat you to give your honor and authority to Christ, and for Christ; and be not dismayed for flesh and blood while you are for the Lord, and for His truth and cause. Christ will be a friend to truth, and will act for those who dare hazard all that they have for Him and for His glory.”


1834 Born Charles H Spurgeon June 19

1850 Baptized on Jan 16 at age of 16

1854 Preached first sermon April age of 17

1855 Published weekly sermons age 21

1861 Metro preached to 10,000 at age 27

1864 Baptismal Regeneration at age 30

1873 Moody Mission in Britain age 39

1873 Downgrade Controversy age 53

1888 Resigns Baptist Union at age 54 because he disagreed with Baptist new declaration of faith.

1891 June Final Sermon at Metro age 57

1892 CH Spurgeon dies Jan 31 age 57

Spurgeon had a mental power which enabled him to assimilate and later introduce everything he read. By age 16 when he came to London he had read an enormous amount. He loved the Puritan period and especially Bunyan. “Prick Bunyan anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bible spewing. The very essence of the Bible flowed from him. He could not speak without quoting text as his soul was full of the Word of God. It is not our knowledge, talent or zeal that can perform God’s work. All we need and should seek is the Spirit of God.

Go home and pray for it and do not rest till God reveals Himself to you.” He continued to warn his congregation to never abandon prayer. He genuinely believed that without the Spirit of God not one soul would confess Jesus as Lord, not one body could be healed. He cherished the 38 years at New Park and said. “What prayer meetings we had! I felt compelled to let the congregation go without a word from my lips, because the Spirit of God was so awfully present that we felt bowed to the dust.  And what listening there was. In His stillness, we scarcely had air enough to breathe!  In His autobiography “If there were only one prayer which I might pray before I died, it should be this; “Lord, send thy Church men filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

The Presence of the Holy Spirit was manifested in Spurgeon’s ministry in 2 respects. First, it was in the spirit of his preaching. Like Paul, he preached in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling. (1 Cor 2:3)  He said “We tremble lest we should misbelieve; and tremble more – if you are like I am – lest we should mistake and misinterpret the Word. We have Martin Luther’s confession that his knees often knocked together when he stood to preach. To preach the whole truth is an awful charge. You and I, who are ambassadors for God, must not trifle, but we must tremble at God’s Word. When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a man, He gives him that same care for the souls of mankind that was seen in the earthly ministry of Christ.  Jesus never preached a careless sermon.” Following His supreme example, Spurgeon was often led into heights of joy and equal despair. As Spurgeon was preaching John 17:24 “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.” He exclaimed “I had a thought, but I cannot express it. Right now I could easily step into heaven; even so, I can also say at this moment, that I do feel a longing for the conversion of my hearers, such as I cannot describe. I would count it a high privilege if I might sleep in death this morning, if that death could redeem your souls from hell.”

To Spurgeon the pulpit was a solemn, serious post, not a place of entertainment. At the age 16, as a Sunday School teacher he noted in his diary after a teachers meeting “Too much joking and levity to agree with my notions of what a Sunday School teacher should be.” Spurgeon agonized at presenting the Gospel absolutely accurately. “There are times in which I have wished that I could become the pastor of a little country church – a small congregation of 200, whose souls I could watch with incessant care.” He prayed that God would seal his mouth in eternal silence rather than let him grow careless or contented while souls were being damned. “It would be better for me that I had never been born than that I preach to these people carelessly, or keep back any part of my Master’s truth.” Secondly, the Holy Spirit was manifest in the ministry of Spurgeon as he asserted many times that the accuracy of the content of any sermon was far more important than the manner of his preaching. He felt constrained by something higher than the call of duty. “Yet if I might make some reserve, and duty did not call, I love my God with zeal so great, that I would give Him all.” The ever glorious absorbing topic on the mind of Spurgeon was his blessed Redeemer Jesus Christ. While testing the acoustics of the immense Crystal Palace, he was not aware of anyone as he spoke “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” An unnoticed workman made himself known as his soul responded with a Yes Lord, forgive me.

Reviewing the titles of his sermons says much about his heart to glorify God. “Christ Lifted Up” – “Christ Exalted” – and “The Eternal Name”. which was preached in 1855 at the age of 20.  The Eternal Name sermon outlines what the world would be like if the Name of Jesus was removed.  Unable to restrain his own feelings the young preacher proclaimed

“I would have no wish to be here without my Lord; and if the gospel is not true, I should bless God to annihilate me this instant, for I would not care to live if anyone could destroy the name of Jesus Christ. His name shall endure forever. It is my chief delight to exalt my glorious Savior.” His wife recounts that sermon saying “Charles seemed in that discourse to be pouring out his very soul and life in homage and adoration before his gracious King. At the end of the sermon, Charles made a mighty effort to recover his voice but words failed him. Only in broken accents could Charles be heard. “Let my name perish but let Christ’s Name last forever! Jesus, Jesus! Jesus! Crown Him Lord of all.” Immediately after, Charles fell back almost fainting in the chair behind him. Early in his ministry the hearers sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Spurgeon wrote “Scarcely is it possible for a man, this side of the grave, be nearer Heaven than when enjoying the Presence of God. I have discerned the special presence of my Lord with me by a consciousness as sure as that by which I know that I live.  Jesus has been as real to me, at my side in this pulpit, as though I had beheld Him with my eyes.”

Charles Spurgeon preached Christ to ever class of citizen. ”remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ.  It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee — is is Christ and His blood and merits; therefore look not to the hope in eternal life, but look to Christ. Let His death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His glories, His intercession. Let this truth be fresh on thy mind. When you wake up look to please Him, when you lie down at night, praise Him for what He has done.”Charles Spurgeon age 22 in the beginning of his ministry. “I do not hesitate to say, that next to the doctrine of the crucifixion and the resurrection of our blessed Lord – no doctrine had such a prominence in the early Christian Church as the doctrine of the election of grace.” CH Spurgeon  Sermon 6

One of the first attacks of this passionate, plain speaking preacher was from the Baptist community known as hyper-Calvinists. Spurgeon’s untraditional phrases and exhortations for hearers to repent and believe in the gospel – was too broad. They criticized that he preached all doctrines, and the no doctrine; all experience, yet no experience at his young age. Spurgeon was not concerned about defending himself. He quipped “a good ‘hyper’ brother, who has a full knowledge of the doctrines of grace; one day reads the Bible and finds a text that looks rather wide and general. To this he asserts by his own limited understanding that Scripture cannot possibly mean what is simply said; therefore, the hyper brother chooses to trim it down and make it match current long winded commentary.”  Spurgeon believed that hyper-Calvinism caused a lopsided theology as it prevented a full preaching of the entire Word of God, as it is, as it is PERFECTLY written. Spurgeon was sternly against hyper Calvin teachings as God’s purpose is to save with a universal command to repent and believe to all – We are commanded to invite all to Christ, those conscious of their sin and need, or not.  Like the Priest in a parable, they see a poor sinner, and they say “His is not conscious of his need, we cannot invite him to Christ.” So they pass them by, staying ever closer to the elect. Spurgeon wrote “I bless my Lord and Master for giving me a gospel which can be taken to dead in sin citizens, a gospel of grace which is available to the most vile of mankind.” What does God mean when He said to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” ?

Spurgeon prayed “God grant these dear brethren new hearts and right spirits; at present their hearts are too small to bring Jesus much glory. Enlarge their hearts that they may have grace sufficient in them to estimate the power of the blood at a much higher rate.” Our Lord did not die to buy a few hundred souls, or to redeem to Himself a handful of people. Jesus shed His precious blood for a number which no man can number, and His elect shall excel in multitude than all the sands of the seas.” Spurgeon consistently preached as a man convinced by God’s Word why the church was ineffective. Though he was forced to say it alone, Spurgeon would not be silent, even while being crucified in the press, his passion was to preach truth, regardless if it was popular. “This is what the Lord says:“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ Therefore hear, you nations, you who are witnesses, observe what will happen to them. Hear, you earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to My words, and have rejected My law.” Jeremiah 6:16-19

Spurgeon wrote in 1879 “Nowadays there appears to be a forgetfulness of the Father, and the ongoing work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Christ is loved, for He died, but many seem to look upon the Father as having no share in the wondrous work of redemption.  This belief came to have a serious effect upon the content of the gospel message; too often forgiveness was our gift, but to come to know God the Father was left out. The emphasis is no longer upon the declaration of the holiness of God, His character and the claims of His law, but upon encouraging men to ‘open their hearts’ to Christ. The Apostolic phrase ‘repentance towards God’ dropped out of common usage and ‘deciding for Christ’ became the new comprehensive term.”   

The Bible does not ask man to make a decision for Christ, the Word of God – specifically the Author and Perfecter of our faith – the Holy Spirit asks us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He obediently sacrificed His life, that Jesus poured out His blood to cover our sins, that we may enter into a holy relationship with our Holy Father. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13  By our Father’s amazing grace, the Godhead made the Way for us to spend eternity with Him. Through the atoning work on the cross, we are made spotless when we believe in Jesus Christ. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermon entitled  “The Personality of the Holy Spirit” is on YouTube. It is based entirely on Scripture.  “And I (Jesus) will ask the Father (God), and He will give you another Advocate (Holy Spirit) to help you and be with you forever—” John 14:16 This awesome promise from Jesus involved His Father and the Holy Spirit. The Godhead worked together in Genesis 1:1-2 `In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) was hovering over the waters.” Ever since the beginning the Godhead has worked together to bring us our salvation. Genesis 1:26-27 “Then God said, “Let us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make mankind in “our” image, in “our” likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God (Persons) He created them; male and female He created them.”

The entirety of the Bible relates back to the beginning, and in Revelation it is declared that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  It was the Holy Spirit that touched the lips of Isaiah, Paul, David and Esther. Who was it then that gave Charles Spurgeon the eloquent, convicting sermons to engage souls?

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