My trip to London
A number of years ago, I read an interesting report from Bob Ross of Pilgrim Publications in Pasadena, Texas, about his trip to England, where he visited several places of interest having to do with Charles Spurgeon. The photos accompanying the article showed a cold and wet climate that made me wonder if I wanted to make such a trip, but, in spite of that hesitation, I decided to do everything I could to plan a similar trip in the not too distant future.
My wife and I thought a trip to London would make a nice fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, which we planned for 2008. Two tragic events, a fire in our sanctuary and the loss of our only daughter, put almost everything in our personal lives on hold; however, we found the opportunity to do what had been postponed for four years.
On October 1, 2012, we arrived in London via nonstop flight from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to London Heathrow, took a subway to Russell Station and waked to Hotel Russell just around the corner. The weather was pleasant with some rain but mostly at night. We spent a couple of days at the British Museum, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, marveled at the Parliament buildings, Westminster Abby, the Tower of London and the crown jewels. We took a train to Lewes, England, and toured the castle built in 1068 by one of my ancestors, William de Warenne.
The next Monday we took a fast train from London to Paris and got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through the haze and made it through only about half of the Louvre. Greatest points of interest were, of course, the Mona Lisa and the code of Hammurabi, founder of the Babylonian Empire.
The absolute highlight of the
entire trip was our visit to the
Metropolitan Tabernacle, Sunday, October 7. We took a fifteen minute bus ride from our hotel to the church building. The main floor was completely full when we arrived, but the ushers pointed us to the balcony which quickly filled to capacity. The service began when Pastor Peter Masters came to the platform. He sat and prayed as the organ played the prelude. There was no worship leader, no choir, no "special" music, no performances of any kind. Dr. Masters announced the hymn, the organ began to play, the congregation stood and sang. He prayed. He read the scriptures. A deacon announced the offering, it was received and Dr. Masters prayed again. Then he read from James 1: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience." It was a message directed straight to my heart. This trip had been delayed for four years due to tribulations that had tried my faith. First, the fire that decimated our sanctuary. Then in the midst of recovery, our only daughter, Julie, our pianist and soloist, my joy in life was taken from us.
I had even preached through the Book of James a few months earlier. I had noted that the trials of life are God's means of sanctifying and strengthening us. And that a sovereign God always knows what is best for His children. But when Dr. Masters preached the same text, it was as if I were the only person in the audience. I had traveled 4,800 miles to hear this message.
The service ended much as it had begun. A hymn and a prayer. I filled out a visitor's card and handed it to a deacon and we engaged in conversation for several minutes. He asked if I would like to meet the pastor, an offer I seized with great enthusiasm. Dr. Masters graciously took my wife and me into his office, showed us Spurgeon's podium and handwritten sermon notes and three large portraits of three pastors whose tenure had spanned almost two hundred years. Imagine that! Three pastors: John Gill, John Rippon and Charles Spurgeon pastored the church from 1720 to 1892.
If you have ever seen portraits of John Gill, you know that he did not have the qualities we call photogenic. Dr. Masters told us that when Spurgeon first saw Gill's portrait, he said: "When they painted that, he must have just seen an Arminean." Ω
Spurgeon and the Down Grade
Lewis Drummond's 1992 biography of Charles Spurgeon is called: Spurgeon Prince of Preachers. The 895 page treatise on the London pastor includes some well-known facts as well as some little-known facts. One such fact is the woeful controversy involving Spurgeon and the Baptist Union. It was sparked in 1887 when Spurgeon printed a series of articles which were critical of liberal theology. The controversy would end after Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union, an organization that he had helped build. He would live five more years in virtual isolation and pass away in 1892 at age 57.
In 1854, Spurgeon went to the New Park Street Baptist Church in London as a supply preacher for six months and never left. He pastored the church for the next 38 years—the rest of his life. It was renamed Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861 when the church moved to a new location.
The "Down Grade", as Spurgeon called it, was a controversy that developed over several years and erupted in 1887 in Spurgeon's paper, The Sword and the Trowel. He said he feared that the Baptist Union (same as an association or a fellowship in this country) was on a down grade of liberal theology. He said the Parliament had expelled Puritanism from the Church of England in the Act of Uniformity in 1662 and replaced its Calvinistic doctrine with Arminianism giving rise to independent Baptists. Spurgeon's first article (March 1887) said that every single independent Baptist church was established on Calvinistic doctrine but this changed as several books were written to counter the Antinomianism of Tobias Crisp, an eminent preacher. The books frightened a large number of Baptists and put them on the "down grade," Spurgeon contended. We would call it an over-correction.
Spurgeon's second article (April 1887) said: "Arminianism, which is only Pelagianism under another name, had, to a large extent, eaten out the life of the Church of England, and Arianism followed to further and complete destruction."
In the third article (June 1887) Spurgeon said: "By some means or other, first the ministers, and then the Churches, got on `the down grade,' and in some cases the descent was rapid, and in all, very disastrous. In proportion as the ministers seceded from the old Puritan godliness of life, and the old Calvinistic form of doctrine, they commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in the matter of their discourses, and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation."
The article did not attack the independent Baptists, but warned that the same thing could happen to them. To leave Calvinistic doctrine was to enter on a slippery slope into apostasy and disaster. He said: "Those who turned from Calvinism may not have dreamed of denying the proper deity of the Son of God, renouncing faith in his atoning death and justifying righteousness, and denouncing the doctrine of human depravity, the need of Divine renewal, and the necessity for the Holy Spirit's gracious work, in order that men might become new creatures, but dreaming or not dreaming, this result became a reality."
Liberalism at Harvard University and Andover Seminary, a Baptist institution, was used as an example of what had happened in America when one gets on that slippery slope. Both of those schools were instituted for the purpose of training ministers but had fallen into doctrinal error. The reaction to these articles was not very radical at first. Spurgeon wrote more articles in August, September and October, 1887, in which he said: "The Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into a fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren and maintain a confederacy with them."
Spurgeon hoped the Baptist Union, meeting that year, would address his concerns set forth in the six articles. He was disappointed. The Union totally ignored his concerns. Some of the young men used the occasion as a joke about an old man's senility. Few followed Spurgeon's warnings. He withdrew from the Baptist Union in a letter dated October 28, 1887.
The congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle passed a resolution with the following wording: "...the church worshipping at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in annual meeting assembled, desires to express its hearty sympathy with its beloved pastor, C.H. Spurgeon in the testimony for truth he has recently borne by his articles upon `The Down Grade,' endorses his action in withdrawing from the Baptist Union (follows him in the course he has taken) and pledges itself to support him by believing prayer and devoted service in his earnest contention for the faith once for all declined to all the saints."
This caused a furor in the Baptist community all over the world. The press reveled in it. Charges and counter-charges were thrown around. A delegation of Baptist ministers attempted to meet with Spurgeon, but he would not see them because of declining health. He eventually met with the council the next year. He would not reconsider his resignation and pressed the Baptist Union to adopt a statement of faith, which would have removed any doubt about its theological position, but its members refused. The union wanted Spurgeon to produce evidence of his accusations that men in the association had departed
from the faith. Spurgeon refused. The association passed two resolutions: the first one accepted Spurgeon's resignation and the second one became known as the "Vote of Censure." Only five members voted against the measures.
In the February 1888 Sword and Trowel, Spurgeon gave his defense. He gave no reason for keeping silent about the identity of those he believed to have departed from the faith and argued that the association had no means by which to expel them if he identified them. It was later learned that those names had been supplied to Spurgeon by the secretary of the association who had sworn him to secrecy.
The entire controversy left Spurgeon with few friends and failing health. The great preacher never recanted his Calvinistic convictions. Someone said that God's servants are not called to win every battle, but they are called to stand firmly on the truth. Such a man was Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Spurgeon's last sermon was delivered to the Pastor's College on April 21, 1891. His text was John 16:14: "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" and called it "He Shall Glorify Me."
Spurgeon's last words: "If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find Him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was His like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold He always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, He carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea, lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in Him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus Christ!"¨Ω
Charles Spurgeon on the Doctrines of Grace
I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free will; I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace!
Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought if
God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His Grace what a great sinner I would have been! I would have run to the utmost lengths of sin, and dived into the very depths of evil! Nor would I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me; I feel that I would have been a very king of sinners if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine Grace. If I am at this moment with Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His Glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty Grace has saved me from going down into the pit of Hell!
Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God—of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my
spiritual life—no, I rather kicked and struggled against the things of the Spirit. When He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him—there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good! Wooings were lost upon
me—warnings were cast to the wind—thunders were despised. As for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, “He only is my salvation.” It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady--
“Grace taught my soul to pray, And made my eyes overflow.”
And coming to this moment, I can add--
“Tis Grace has kept me to this day, And will not let me go.”
Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the Doctrines of Grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the Grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those Truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown all of a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge through having found, once and for all, the clue to the Truth of God. One week night, when I was sitting in the House of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it.
The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I would not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him! I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by
reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, 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, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
Editor - How many of us, the number must be tremendous, have had the same experience as Charles Spurgeon. We heard the good pastor preaching as best as he could about God's love for us and Christ dying for us, but he kept ignoring the great truths of Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.
How many of us struggled for so long to justify so many of these passages with a free-will doctrine, but we could not. Suddenly, one day, God opened our understanding, and there it was, so plainly explained that God has a particular people, the bride of Christ, His chosen seed. And the Bible for the first time made sense.
Praise God for His wonderful Word of Truth. How it feeds the soul with joy and peace.
What are the doctrines of grace?
In summary, the doctrines of grace teach that salvation is accomplished by the
almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for
them, and the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect
to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The
entire process of election, redemption and regeneration is the work of God and
is by His grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. John 1:12-13; John 15:16; Romans 9:14-16; Ephesians 1:2-14
There are five links in a chain of Scriptural truths that result in the doctrines of grace:
1. Total Depravity
Man's depravity, as a result of original sin, is total. All men are born into this
world spiritually dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; the sinner's heart
is desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he has lost his ability to choose good over evil in the
spiritual realm. It takes more than the Spirit's assistance to bring the sinner
to Christ - it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and
gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation - it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God. (Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3; 8:44; Romans 3:10-12; 5:12; Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 2:14)
2. Unconditional Election
God's choice of particular individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of certain sinners was
not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith,
repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each
individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause, of God's
choice. Election, therefore, was not determined by or conditioned upon any
virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He
brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus,
God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate
cause of salvation. (Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Isaiah 55:11; John 6:44; 15:16; Acts
13:48; Romans 8:28; 9:11-13; 2 Timothy 1:9)
3. Limited Atonement
Christ's death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of God's elect. Christ's redeeming work was intended to save only those whom the Father had given him and actually secured salvation for them. Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for the their salvation,
including faith which unites them to Him. They are the sole object of God's
saving grace. (Matthew 1:21; 20:28; John 10:14-18; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans
5:8-9; Titus 2:14; Revelation 5:9)
4. Irresistible Grace
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who
hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call is made without distinction and can be and is often rejected; whereas the internal call, made only to the elect, cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited by man's will or dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect to cooperate, to believe, to repent, and to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; John 6:37; Romans 8:30; Colossians 2:13; James 1:18; Titus 3:5)
5. Preservation of the Saints
All who were chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and, thus, persevere to the end. Therefore, salvation is wholly dependent upon the God who has willed to save those whom He gave to His dear Son. Their salvation can never be lost. The elect are kept by God's power through faith, and nothing can separate them from His love. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who has been given as the guarantee of their salvation, and they are thus assured of an eternal inheritance. This doctrine does not maintain that all who profess the Christian faith are certain of heaven. Many who profess belief and then "fall away" do not fall from grace; they were never in grace. True believers fall into various temptations and commit grevious sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from Christ. (Isaiah 43:1-3; Jeremiah 32:40; Romans 8:35-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Jude 24-25
Why men don't preach sovereign grace
by Joseph Hart 1712-1768
What makes mistaken men afraid
Of sovereign grace to preach!
The reason is, if truth be said,
Because they are so rich.
Why so offensive in their eyes
Does God's election seem ?
Because they think themselves so wise
That they have chosen him.
Of perseverance why so loath
Are some to speak or hear ?
Because, as masters over sloth,
They vow to persevere.
Whence is imputed righteousness
A point so little known ?
Because men think they all possess
Some righteousness their own.
Not so the needy, helpless soul,
Prefers his humble prayer;
He looks to him that works the whole,
And seeks his treasure there.
His language is, Let me, my God,
On sovereign grace rely;
And own 'tis free, because bestowed
On one so vile as I.
Election ! tis a word divine;
For, Lord, I plainly see,
Had not thy choice preceded mine,
I ne'er had chosen thee.
For perseverance strength I've none,
But would on this depend...
That Jesus, having loved his own,
Will love them to the end.
Empty and bare, I come to thee
For righteousness divine :
0 may thy matchless merits be,
By imputation, mine.
Thus differ these; yet hoping each
To make salvation Sure.
Now most men will approve the rich,
But Christ has blessed the poor: