I have finally finished Iain Murray’s theological biography on C.H. Spurgeon called “The Forgotten Spurgeon”. This is not a new book (1st print 1966) but it has been reprinted on several occasions and I found it quite an encouraging volume on many fronts. There are many biographies that have been written on Spurgeon but this one is unique in that it is a biography dealing primarily with Spurgeon’s Calvinism and the controversies that surrounded him. The man was a Calvinist without a question of a doubt and people criticized him to no end for it. They saw the Spurgeon who was calling sinners to Christ, educating new ministers and had a heart for the poor, widows and orphans and the Spurgeon of Calvinism as almost a Jekyll & Hyde. Murray does a fine job in demonstrating that the former was a result of the latter. Regardless, Murray quotes men who could write of Spurgeon:
When people ask me what I think of Spurgeon, I always ask which Spurgeon- the head or the heart- the Spurgeon of the Tabernacle or the Spurgeon of the Orphanage? The kind of Calvinism which the one occasionally represents I simply hate, as I hate selfishness and blasphemy. It is that leering, slavering, sly-winking Calvinism that says “bless the Lord we are all right, booked straight through to heaven first-class…But when I turn to the Orphanage all is changed. All is beauty. All is love… (The British Weekly, “Open Letter to Spurgeon”, Joseph Parker, April 25, 1890)
There is nothing new under the sun as the scripture tells us. We hear this criticism of the doctrines of grace even in our day today where people see the result of Calvinism such as passionate evangelism, an emphasis on a life of Holiness, charity and education as two separate and inconsistent things. The old doctrines, as Spurgeon referred to them, do nothing but encourage us to a higher Christianity. How so? The belief in Calvinism and its view of the Sovereignty of God is the result of a high view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God. While sometimes our inclination is to think that it is irrational and goes against human thinking, the truth is that accepting Calvinism means you accept God for who He really is and man for who he really is. When the bible speaks of man as dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5), that we are, prior to regeneration, captives of the Devil (2 Tim. 2:26), under his power (Acts 26:1; Col. 1:13) and always oppressed by a slavery to him (Acts 10:38) and that our natural inclination is towards sin continuously (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Prov. 21:10), that the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8) and that a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14) that this is precisely true of man. When the bible states of the God of the bible that “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the people; The counsel of the LORD stands forever (Isaiah 33:10-11), that My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. (Isaiah 46:10-11) that we believe that what the bible is true regarding God’s Sovereignty in all things including salvation (Romans 8-9; Eph.1:4-6; 2 Thess. 2:13) In other words, we believe what the scriptures say as the very words of the living God (Matthew 22:31; 2 Timothy 3:15-17) We accept the bible as a whole even those texts which make us uncomfortable. When the scriptures tell us to evangelize the world, to feed the hungry, to do justice to the fatherless and to the widow and to present God as the holy and righteous One, we do so with consistency and with conviction. In other words, we take the Word of God seriously!
Ironically, I have been criticized in the past for believing these biblical truths and there was one Arminian individual who will remain nameless that I recall telling me that there are portions of the bible which shouldn’t be read in public since they might offend an unbeliever. I was obviously taken back by his remark but of course, when our goal is to please the ears of men how can we truly take the bible seriously and live it as the Words of the living God