posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.
Spurgeon was well known for his evangelistic appeals. As an unregenerate adolescent, under intense conviction about his sin, he listened to sermon after sermon, longing to hear how he could be saved. In the end, he came to Christ after hearing a wholly unprepared sermon by an uneducated lay preacher who (happily for Spurgeon) knew nothing more to preach than the barest essence of a gospel invitation.
So Spurgeon as a preacher resolved to try to make the gospel as clear as possible in every sermon he gave, and he often punctuated it with a strong and forceful appeal. Some of the more priggish high Calvinists in Spurgeon's day were offended by this, but Spurgeon was undeterred.
I have always loved and appreciated the evangelical warmth of Spurgeon's brand of Calvinism. I think it represents the best strain of historic Calvinism, and lots of Calvinists today would do well to emulate Spurgeon's example. He was convinced (quite correctly) that Calvinism's stress on the sovereignty of God in salvation in no way rules out the evangelist's duty to plead with sinners to be reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Here's a sample evangelistic appeal from a sermon titled "The Form and Spirit of Religion," preached on April 4, 1858, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens, London:
A plea to people without Christ
Now, before I send you away, let me make this last remark. I hear one say, "Sir, I renounce all trust in good works and ceremonies. Tell me how can I be saved?"
The way is simply this. Our sins deserve punishment; God must and will punish sin; Jesus Christ came into this world and was punished in the room, place, and stead of all that believe on him.
Your business, then, this morning is to make this inquiry, Do I want a Saviour? Do I feel that I want him? And my business, if you answer that question aright is to say, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all thy heart, and thou shalt be saved.
Ah! there is one in heaven to-day, I firmly believe, who was always a worshipper in this place, and at New Park Streeta young man who was led here to listen to the gospel, and was converted to God; and last Sabbath morning was caught away to heaven in the burning house at Bloomsburyone of those young men who was taken out of the ruins, one who had been brought to a knowledge of the truth here.
It is stated in some of the papers, that his mother was far from a religious woman, and was somewhat given to drink; he had to struggle with some temptation and opposition, but he was enabled to hold on his way, and then, in such an hour as he thought not, the Son of Man came for him, and caught him to himself in the midst of flames and crashing timbers and the uprising of smoke.
Oh! I may have one here, that, ere another Sabbath morning comes, may be launched into eternity, if not by the same deplorable process, yet in as hasty a manner; and as my soul rejoices over that young man, to think that God should have honoured me in bringing him to Christ before he took him up to heaven, I must lament that there are any of you in a peril so frightful, as to be living without God, without Christ, without a hope of heaven; to have death hanging over you, and yet not to tremble at it. Oh! this morning I beseech you, close with Christ. "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, while his wrath is kindled but a little: for blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
Incidentally, that invitation came at the end of a sermon against ritualistic tendencies in religion. While Spurgeon often made direct and passionate appeals to unbelievers, he had misgivings about the practice of formal altar callsbecause he correctly foresaw that this could easily become a kind of Baptist "ritualism," obscuring the simplicity of salvation. In his book An All-Round Ministry, he wrote:
On Altar-Calls and Enquiry-Rooms
Let me say, very softly and whisperingly, that there are little things among ourselves which must be carefully looked after, or we shall have a leaven of Ritualism and priesthood working in our measures of meal. In our revival services, it might be as well to vary our procedure. Sometimes shut up that inquiry-room.I think he struck a good balance.
I have my fears about that institution if it be used in permanence, and as an inevitable part of the services. It may be a very wise thing to invite persons, who are under concern of soul, to come apart from the rest of the congregation, and have conversation with godly people; but if you should ever see that a notion is fashioning itself that there is something to be got in the private room which is not to be had at once in the assembly, or that God is more at that penitent form than elsewhere, aim a blow at that notion at once.
We must not come back by a rapid march to the old way of altars and confessionals, and have Romish trumpery restored in a coarser form. If we make men think that conversation with ourselves or with our helpers is essential to their faith in Christ, we are taking the direct line for priestcraft.
In the gospel, the sinner and the Savior are to come together, with none between. Speak upon this point very clearly, "You, sinner, sitting where you are, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall have eternal life. Do not stop till you pass into an inquiry-room. Do not think it essential to confer with me. Do not suppose that I have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, or that these godly men and women associated with me can tell you any other gospel than this, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.'"