Question: ...Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon knows that he taught Limited Atonement. How much longer do we have to wait to see in print your admission of your inexcusable misrepresentation of Spurgeon? | thebereancall.org

TBC Staff

Question: James White has caught you red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon in your book. You claim that Spurgeon “rejected Limited Atonement.” You support that assertion with a quote of rejection of any “limit to the merit of the blood of Jesus....” Yet you omitted clear statements in the very section from which you quote that “the intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering...we do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned.” Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon knows that he taught Limited Atonement. How much longer do we have to wait to see in print your admission of your inexcusable misrepresentation of Spurgeon?

Response: Spurgeon was torn between what he called “hyper-Calvinism” and the Word of God. In the quote I give he very clearly says, “In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore....Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question.” He then goes on to deny “that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them....The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.”

Spurgeon seems to be contradicting himself. How could the “merit” of the atonement be unlimited unless Christ died for all? If He paid the penalty only for the sins of the elect, then the merit of His death is finite, being confined to a definite number. What did he really mean? I think I have good reason to believe that this is just another case of what one historian explained as “The...old Calvinistic phrases were often on Spurgeon’s lips but the genuine Calvinistic meaning had gone out of them.” 1

I think we find the key to Spurgeon’s real beliefs in his opposition to what he called “hyper-Calvinism.” His preaching sparked the “duty-faith” controversy in which he was accused of holding Arminianism. The controversy raged in England for some years and took its name from Spurgeon’s teaching that it was the “duty” of every person to have faith in Christ.

If Spurgeon believed in “particular redemption,” as the quote above seemed to indicate, it was a peculiar kind. He pressed upon all his hearers the duty of believing the gospel: “Read, write, print, shout—‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ Great Saviour, I thank Thee for this text; help Thou me so to preach from it that many may come to Thee, and find eternal life!” 2

Spurgeon claimed, “I have all the Puritans with me...without a single exception.” 3 Even the Synod of Dort had declared, “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called....[God] seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him and believe on him.” That hardly sounds like the Particular Redemption elsewhere taught by Dort. Such are the contradictions inherent within Calvinism, which tries to maintain that God offers salvation to all, even to those whom He has predestined to eternal doom.

But the contradictions were more apparent in Spurgeon’s preaching, contradictions which were “regarded among many of the Particular Baptists as symptoms of defection from Calvinism.” 4 His chief opponent was James Wells (referred to privately by Spurgeon as “King James”) who for 30 years had been the most popular and powerful Particular Baptist pastor south of the Thames until the arrival of Spurgeon at New Park Street. He pressed his attack to prove that Spurgeon was an Arminian with such damning quotes as this from the sermon “Future Bliss”: “Oh! Dear souls...if you believe in your Christ you are elect; whosoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus...shall have mercy if he come for it.” Wells argued that “such words quietly set election aside, and rest the whole matter with the creature....” 5

Am I caught red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon? I don’t think so.

Endnotes

  1. A. C. Underwood, A History of the English Baptists (Baptist Union Publications Dept., 1947), 204.
  2. C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), I:225-26.
  3. C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 7:148.
  4. Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 55.
  5. James Wells, Earthen Vessel (1857), 155.
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