Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010 10:49 pm
The Messenger, July 15, 2010
Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, Part II
By RICHARD M. SMITH
Special to The Messenger
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century British Particular Baptist preacher, remains highly influential among many Christians today. Spurgeon was an evangelical Calvinist who read widely and who especially loved the 17th-century Puritans.
Spurgeon pastored the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (formally The New Park Street Chapel) in London for 38 years. In accordance with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, written by Particular Baptists who held to a Calvinistic soteriology, Spurgeon defended the church against liberalism and pragmatic theological tendencies.
During his ministry, he fought battles within the church on false doctrine. On June 5, 1864, Spurgeon challenged the Church of England when he preached against the doctrine of Baptismal regeneration found in their Prayer Book. He accused the evangelical Anglicans of perjury in using the Prayer Book when they did not believe in baptismal regeneration. In the resulting uproar he felt compelled to resign from the Evangelical Alliance for a time.
In 1887 Spurgeon became involved in what later became known as the Down-Grade Controversy. It took its name from Spurgeon’s use of the term “downgrade” to describe certain other Baptists’ opinion of the Bible (i.e., they had “downgraded” the Bible and the principle of sola scriptura). The 19th century registered many advances in science, philosophy, languages and history. It could be said that another Renaissance was taking place; many voiced a new concern for accuracy and progress.
Established Christian doctrine began to be openly questioned and examined also. Many Christians reasoned that if advances were possible in other areas, then why should spiritual knowledge within the church remain static? Those who supported this so-called progress were willing to adopt a less rigid attitude toward the content of Scripture. Within the Baptist Union, of which Spurgeon was a member, there was a growing shift away from the old gospel by several of its leaders.
The influence of Darwin’s theory of evolution was being felt all around Great Britain. England was also witnessing an influx of German higher criticism, casting doubt on the integrity and reliability of Holy Scripture. Many preachers were being led astray into idle and vain speculation in the name of progress.
Though many doctrines came to be questioned, the major issue for Spurgeon was the inspiration and absolute reliability of Scripture. The Scripture, as the infallible Word of the sovereign God, as the sole rule of faith and practice, was being undermined.
Spurgeon would have none of this. As a lover of God and His truth, Spurgeon took public action by writing to the Baptist Union and requesting that it adopt an evangelical statement of faith which it did not have at the time. Spurgeon believed that if the Bible were surrendered to the whims of mere men, then the Faith would become dangerously subjective.
Spurgeon did everything he could to appeal to those in authority within the Baptist Union, especially its secretary S.H. Booth. When his efforts proved to be of no avail, Spurgeon withdrew from the Union on Oct. 28, 1887. His reason: The Union preferred denominational peace over the duty of dealing with error. By tolerating sin, they made the withdrawal of Christians from the Union unavoidable.
Spurgeon later wrote: “I would like all Christendom to know that all I asked of the Union is that it be formed on a Scriptural basis.” This battle to defend the primacy and authority of Scripture has confronted the church throughout its history. It is a battle many denominations are fighting even today. The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon rose to the conflict and fought for truth.
Spurgeon died Jan. 31, 1892. Few preachers in the history of the church have had as profound and lasting impact as Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Richard M. Smith is a redeemed sinner and a believer in the Reformed doctrines of faith. (www.graceunioncity.com)