Posted On March 3, 2021

To be an effective evangelist, you must be sound a theologian. For many, the word “Calvinism” has the connotation of dead and dry orthodoxy. Calvinism, however, is evangelistic by nature and demands evangelistic practice within the life of the church. In the nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a pastor who rediscovered what the Church had largely forgotten – the so-called Calvinistic doctrine’s evangelistic power.[1] Far from being a hindrance to evangelism, Spurgeon saw Calvinistic truths as the driving force behind an evangelistic ministry. Spurgeon writes: “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism.”[2]

Of course, Spurgeon saw more to Christianity than the five points of Calvinism. However, Spurgeon firmly believed that the five great doctrines of Calvinism are, to some degree, a summary of the rest.[3] Again, Spurgeon writes: “I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine, I have not departed to this day.”[4]

Total Depravity

Spurgeon held the utter helplessness and inability of man to come to Christ. Spurgeon was convinced that every aspect of our humanity has been affected and vitiated by Adam’s fall into sin (Ps 51:1; John 3:19; 5:40-44; 6:44; Rom 8:8; Eph 2:3). Spurgeon wrote the following: “I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing.”[5] Spurgeon knew that sin has not only provoked God’s anger and wrath, but it has also enslaved the whole of humanity. Our minds are ensnared, our affections and feelings are corrupted, and our will is enthralled with the ways of the world.[6] Ultimately, Spurgeon saw the depravity of man as essential to gospel preaching. In a lecture given to pastors, Spurgeon urged them to teach on the depravity of human nature. Spurgeon exhorted his students to “show men that sin is not an accident, but the genuine outcome of their corrupt hearts.”[7]

Unconditional Election

Second, as sinners who are “dead in trespasses and sins,” left to ourselves, we do not have the ability or inclination to seek God (Eph 2:1-3). If we are to seek God, then God must take the initiative and make us both willing and able to do what is contrary to our fallen nature.[8] This merciful and gracious act of God to the sinner is traced back to his unconditional election (John 15:16; Rom 9:15; Eph 1:1-14). Spurgeon expressed his belief in this doctrine in the following statement: “If God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterward.”[9]

In his Revival Year Sermons, Spurgeon proclaimed the abundance of God’s electing grace: “Oh, what a glorious doctrine is that of election … Oh, how sweet it is to believe our names were on Jehovah’s heart and graven on Jesus’ hands before the universe had a being!”[10] In his preaching, Spurgeon made it clear that the only reason we came to Christ was that he set his electing love upon us. This can be seen in the following statement:

If the call be effectual, and you are brought out and brought in – brought out of sin and brought to Christ, brought out of death into life, and out of slavery into liberty, then, though thou canst not see God’s hand in it, yet it is there.[11]

Limited Atonement

Third, Spurgeon held to limited atonement as revealed truth. The expression of limited atonement denotes a limitation, not in the power, but the atonement’s design and purpose.[12] In other words, since God chose a people by grace for salvation, it is clear that he died to atone for the sins of that particular people. Speaking of this, Spurgeon aptly said:

To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that he was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterward punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice.[13]

Thus, Spurgeon knew that for God to maintain His justice, Christ’s death was designed to specifically save God’s chosen people (Is 53:11; John 10:14-16; Acts 20:28; Rom 8:31; Heb 9:28). This means that through the “all-sufficient death of Jesus the sin of every believer is blotted out once and for all.”[14]

Irresistible and Preserving Grace
Spurgeon believed that God’s grace would draw and preserve those who are chosen by God. Spurgeon said, “apart from the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God, men’s souls must lie in the valley of dry bones, dead, and dead forever.”[15] A sinner will not come to Christ until the Spirit of God draws them (John 6:44). In other words, “the Spirit of God should operate to change the will, to correct the bias of the heart, to set man in a right track, and then give him strength to run in it.”[16] Before the Holy Spirit worked upon Spurgeon’s heart, he was not aware of his spiritual darkness and his desperate need for grace. However, when the Spirit opened his eyes, Spurgeon knew that he was a debtor to the irresistible grace of God. Spurgeon writes, “I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace.’[17] Similarly, Spurgeon knew that those who trust in Christ will be kept in Christ: “This good work which is begun in believers by God, which can only be further performed by God, most certainly will be so carried on.”[18]

Conclusion

It must be pointed out that Spurgeon did not believe that one must hold to Calvinism if he is going to be a Christian. To address this issue, Spurgeon said the following:

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do … 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 … 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.[19]

This statement shows us that the doctrines of grace must produce the most gracious Christians. Yes, we are to preach the doctrines of grace, but we must also live the grace of the doctrines.

 [1] C. H. Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons, 1859 (1959; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 12-13.

[2] Ibid., 16.

[3] Geoff Thomas, “The Preacher’s Progress,” in A Marvelous Ministry: How the All-round Ministry of C. H. Spurgeon Speaks to Us Today, ed. Tim Curnow, Erroll Hulse, David Kingdom, and Geoff Thomas (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993), 59.

[4] Ibid., 165.

[5] Ibid., 168.

 [6] John Benton, Evangelistic Calvinism: Why the Doctrines of Grace Are Good News (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2006), 7.

[7] C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (1894; repr., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 338.

[8] Benton, Evangelistic Calvinism, 10.

 [9] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 166.

[10] Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons, 78.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Rae, Free Will or Free Grace?, 26.

[13] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 172.

[14] Benton, Evangelistic Calvinism, 10.

[15] Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons, 52.

[16] Ibid., 53.

[17] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 164.

[18] C. H. Spurgeon, The Perseverance of the Saints, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (1869; repr., Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1970), 15: 289-300.

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