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(Coughing and spluttering a bit as I type this, with what is hopefully a short term bug, but I hope this article will be helpful to us all on a spiritual plain as I want it will be to me on a therapeutic level. Nothing like building a case on some doctrinal point to lure the mind away from feeling sorry for itself.)
A couple of days ago, I had a good old discussion with my non Calvinist friend Chris Casillas over Spurgeon's view of Calvinism. You can follow the ins and outs of individual tweets, probably starting about here. A few others have chipped in their tuppence worth along the way too, but I am, of course, only responsible for my own contributions.
CH Spurgeon started off, continued and concluded his remarkable ministry as a Five Point Calvinist. He certainly did not harp on and on about it in every last sermon, but read for yourself what he said over the course of 66 huge volumes.
In this sermon, which Chris helpfully draws attention to, CHS made it clear that Calvinism is the gospel and that you cannot preach Christ crucified unless you preach the particular redemption of the elect. This would suggest that Spurgeon then did not believe that Arminians and their various off shoots did not preach the gospel of Christ. The obvious question to ask is that if they did not preach the gospel of Christ, then what gospel did they preach? Any gospel other than that of Christ is, of course, another gospel and comes under the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9, so the stakes are high.
I tried to draw Chris out as to the logical outcome of Spurgeon's words (as they stand in this one solitary quote) from his point of view. Every argument has a reverse. If Spurgeon believed that only Calvinism and was the gospel and any deviation from it was another gospel, then non Calvinists would have to say that either than Spurgeon was right and they were preaching another gospel or that Spurgeon himself was guilty of the crime. Chris didn't bite. I have a page elsewhere on this blog about the relationship of many anti Calvinists to Spurgeon. I note that Chris does not believe that a man's adherence to Calvinism puts him outside the fold of preaching the gospel, although the words "Apparently he did" re: Spurgeon are very soft indeed. We have 66 volumes out there in the public domain to leave the matter without doubt.
There is a danger in taking one quote, conclusive though it may be in itself, as the test of where a man stood overall. I analyse Spurgeon's position as being that overall he believed that the doctrines of Calvinism gave a fuller expression to the gospel than the watered down alternative views. See, for example, what Spurgeon wrote on the doctrine of Particular Redemption.
Once again, if it were Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has he been disappointed! for we have his own evidence that there is a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit must be cast some of the very persons, who according to that theory, were bought with his blood. That seems to me a thousand times more frightful than any of those horrors, which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of particular redemption. (Sermon 204 New Park Street Pulpit 4:553)Although Spurgeon hammered without mercy into Armininianism, yet he did not despise Arminians nor unchurch them. He invited the Methodists to the opening of the Tabernacle and preached for them as well. Spurgeon was not always consistent, even in the same sermon. For example, in his "Defence of Calvinism" (from where Chris gets his quote above) Spurgeon wrote:
There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views.He then goes on to nominate John Wesley for the hypothetical post of apostle. He said of Wesley:
Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one "of whom the world was not worthy." I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.
And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?This is desperately inconsistent, is it not? What more can we say? If you take the line (Chris evidently doesn't) that Calvinism is another gospel, then you need to invoke Galatians 1:8-9 and damn Spurgeon and a whole host of folk, living and dead, to the deepest hell.
I would say that when it came to the doctrines of Calvinism, Spurgeon believed them with all his heart. Reread the consistent life long pulpit ministrations of this remarkable man. As far as I can see, he never wavered once on these 5 points. I would also say that when it came to the odd remark about Arminians, sometimes his bark was worse than his bite. It would be interesting - although I wouldn't have the time to do it - to go through his sermons and see what he said about Arminians. My guess is that he said more positive things about them - that they would be in Heaven as much as any Calvinist etc., - than he said against them.
My personal view is that while I would not tolerate Armininism in the creed of my church, it would not stand between me and fellowship with another Christian. I personally have preached in professing Arminian churches. One of our local ones here is having a gospel mission on at present. May God give them hundred of souls as he gave to the gospel preaching of Wesley and others.
Just a few thoughts.