19 November 2006

Young Spurgeon vs. the Antinomians

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from Chapter 23, "Reminiscences as a Village Pastor," in Spurgeon's Autobiography.


But first—two bonus links:

Bonus no. 1:
Here's a wonderful article giving insight into how Spurgeon was regarded in London during the early years. It includes a newspaper article from the era. If you'd like to read Spurgeon's later reflections about those difficult years, check this 1876 article from his own pen.

Bonus no. 2:
Here's a link to David Wheaton's radio broadcast last Saturday. He interviewed me regarding Arnold Dallimore's biography on Charles Spurgeon, and Spurgeon's life and ministry.

Now, to the excerpt from Spurgeon's Autobiography:

n my first pastorate, I had often to battle with Antinomians,—that is, people who held that, because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked.

I hope that heresy has to a great extent died out, but it was sadly prevalent in my early ministerial days.

I knew one man, who stood on the table of a public house, and held a glass of gin in his hand, declaring all the while that he was one of the chosen people of God. They kicked him out of the public-house, and when I heard of it, I felt that it served him right. Even those ungodly men said that they did not want any such "elect" people there.

There is no one who can live in sin,—drinking, swearing, lying, and so on,—who can truly declare that he is one of the Lord's chosen people.

I recollect one such man,—and he was a very bad fellow,—yet he had the hardihood to say, "I know that I am one of God's dear people."

"So you are," said I; "dear at any price, either to be given or thrown away!" He did not like my plain speaking, but it was true; for that was the only sense in which he was one of God's dear people.

From my very soul, I detest everything that in the least savors of the Antinomianism which leads people to prate about being secure in Christ while they are living in sin. We cannot be saved by or for our good works, neither can we be saved without good works. Christ never will save any of His people in their sins; He saves His people from their sins.

If a man is not desiring to live a holy life in the sight of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he is still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."

I used to know a man of this class, who talked a great deal about "saving faith." He was notorious for his evil life, so I could not make out what he meant by saving faith, until the collection was taken, and I noticed how carefully he put his fingernail round a threepenny piece for fear lest it should be a fourpenny; then I understood his meaning.

But the idea of "saving faith" apart from good works, is ridiculous. The saved man is not a perfect man; but his heart's desire is to become perfect, he is always panting after perfection, and the day will come when he will be perfected, after the image of his once crucified and now glorified Savior, in knowledge and true holiness.

While I was minister at Waterbeach, I used to have a man sitting in front of the gallery, who would always nod his head when I was preaching what he considered sound doctrine, although he was about as bad an old hypocrite as ever lived. When I talked about justification, down went his head; when I preached about imputed righteousness, down it went again. I was a dear good man in his estimation, without doubt.

So I thought I would cure him of nodding, or at least make his head keep still for once; so I remarked, "There is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself; a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by His Spirit, and your justifying yourself by a false belief, or presumption; this is the difference," said I,—and the old man at once put me down as a rank Arminian,—"you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, have no marks of the Spirit of God; you have no evidence of genuine piety, you are not holy men and women, you can live in sin, you can walk as sinners walk, you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you call yourselves the children of God. One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life."

The old Antinomian did not approve of that doctrine; but I knew that I was preaching what was revealed in the Word of God.

C. H. Spurgeon


26 comments:

Lou Martuneac said...

"But the idea of 'saving faith' apart from good works, is ridiculous. The saved man is not a perfect man; but his heart's desire is to become perfect, he is always panting after perfection, and the day will come when he will be perfected, after the image of his once crucified and now glorified Savior, in knowledge and true holiness."

Excellent! I am a strong proponent of the "good works" (Eph. 2:10) being, to some degree, in evidence in the life a person who makes a profession of faith in Christ.

These good works of a new born disciple of Christ should be the natural result of a genuine conversion.

LM

Bobby Grow said...

It seems Spurgeon, as a pastor, was responding to an abuse and misunderstanding, by the laity, of what antinomianism was about theologically. Theologically it encapsulates thought surrounding the inter-relationship between law and gospel.

I have a new article discussing some of the theological components of antinomianism, much different than what Spurgeon defines in this brief insight to "his" thoughts on antinomianism.

Phil, I hope posting this link is allowable.

donsands said...

There shall always be the extremes.

Those who think they are a Christian, because they go to church, and those who say you're not a Christian, unless you go to church.
The Scriptures in their wholeness bring balance, so that we are able to see the "fine line" we need to walk as followers of Christ.

Great words from C.H. I wish more pastor's would preach like this today, we surely need it.

bluecollar said...

",—"you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, have no marks of the Spirit of God; you have no evidence of genuine piety, you are not holy men and women, you can live in sin, you can walk as sinners walk, you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you call yourselves the children of God. One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life."

"seeks to live a holy, Christlike life"

Way to sum it all up, CHS! Perfect! Amen!

Phil Johnson said...

Bobby:

No problem with the link, but your comments about antinomianism are far wide of the mark. Antinomianism in Spurgeon's era (and even today in certain circles) was associate with a particular strain of British hyper-Calvinism. It was precisely the kind of error Spurgeon described. He dealt with it in his first pastorate and dealt with remnants of it all his life.

Read Iain Murray's Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism for more background on this type of antinomianism.

Bobby Grow said...

Phil said:

. . . but your comments about antinomianism are far wide of the mark. . . .

No they're not. Read: Theodore Dwight Bozeman, “The Precisianist Strain Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash In Puritanism To 1638,” University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC. , for further nuance and understanding of what antinomianism was originally all about. That's why I said:

It seems Spurgeon, as a pastor, was responding to an abuse and misunderstanding, by the laity, of what antinomianism was about theologically. . . .

When I said theologically, I was referring to what John Eaton articulated his antinomianism as (and many others for that matter--see my article for Eaton's view).

As anyone knows language is fluid, and connotations develop around language per the period and context it's used in--such as antinomianism. All I want to highlight is that what Spurgeon was responding to, and what John Eaton, and others articulated are different things. Hopefully this point will be taken into consideration so that when folks hear the terminology "antinomian" in the future they will pause and realize that there is more to that word than the anarchical extremes Spurgeon had to respond to.

I think it is "sloppy" to use that term w/o qualification, and lead people to believe that there is only one way that that term was used (i.e. Spurgeon usage vs. Eaton's usage)(much like the word Catholic vs. catholic).

I realize you were quoting Spurgeon, but I think a side-note of clarification would've been helpful, viz that there are different nuances, historically, to how antinomian was used. Unless of course you want people to believe that what Spurgeon was responding to as antinomian is the only way antinomianism can be defined--but I'm sure you wouldn't do something like that.

Phil Johnson said...

Bobby Grow: "All I want to highlight is that what Spurgeon was responding to, and what John Eaton, and others articulated are different things."

Well, that's not quite right, either. They weren't "different" in the sense of being unrelated. What Spurgeon was responding to were actually the popular, grass-roots fruit of theological antinomianism. Theological antinomianism (what you are speaking about) and practical antinomianism (what Spurgeon spoke of) were closely related as cause and effect.

To be clear: I completely understand, and do not envy, your plight as a defender of theological antinomianism. Those who conscientiously hold antinomian convictions rarely advocate unholy living. Many of them, like you, are utterly appalled at unholiness. They are convinced their position is nothing more than a consistent application of the biblical statement, "Ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14), and they cannot fathom why someone like me would blame their views for the spiritual laxity Spurgeon was describing.

Nonetheless, the fruits of antinomianism at the grass-roots level historically have led inevitably to the kind of thinking Spurgeon characterized. The two things are clearly and closely related. The grass-roots lack of holiness Spurgeon encountered at Waterbeach was the predictable fruit of at least two generations of hyper-Calvinist antinomianism. I think he was right about that, even though I am quite sure that the theological godfathers of the doctrines Spurgeon's parishioners held to—including Tobias Crisp and Wm. Huntington—would have expressed stern disapproval of their followers' unholy lives. Unfortunately, there were no teeth in the antinomian doctrinal convictions to treat holiness and obedience as anything other than wholly optional.

Same problem with no-lordship antinomianism today.

Bobby Grow said...

Phil said:

Well, that's not quite right, either. They weren't "different" in the sense of being unrelated. . . .

I never said they weren't "related"; rather, ". . . It seems Spurgeon, as a pastor, was responding to an abuse and misunderstanding, by the laity, of what antinomianism was about theologically. . . ."

So yes I agree they were related, just negatively from the laities' perspective--misunderstood as the Romans were misunderstanding the freedom from the Law/and the freedom to Christ concept in Rom. 6:1ff (as you noted).

The problem I think you have is that you soteriologically assume a hermeneutical construct, i.e. Federal Theology, that is at odds with your other hermeneutical construct dispensationalism. In other words, you seem to hold to Christ's "active obedience" to the Mosaic Law as the basis His imputed righteousness to us, which assumes the Federal continuity model of hermeneutics; while at the same time asserting that you're a dispensationalist which emphasizes discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants.

How do you integrate these disparate theological constructs, which yield different exegetical trajectories, w/o engaging in fallacious reasoning on your view of Law and Gospel.

Of course Spurgeon didn't face the same conundrum, since he was Covenant, or at leas amil, in his interpretive commitments, right?

Furthermore, when the gospel is rightly understood, and a heart is captured by the love of Christ, holiness is a natural consequnce in the life of the believer--there's plenty of "teeth" in the "Law of Christ"--the Mosaic Cov. was never intended to be the basis of our salvation (i.e. it was given to an already Covenanted people of God [i.e. saved see Ex. 12]), only intended to point us to Christ (Gal. 3).

Bhedr said...

>I knew one man, who stood on the table of a public house, and held a glass of gin in his hand, declaring all the while that he was one of the chosen people of God<

When we were in Spain and coming back from the Gulf War a man who owned a restaurant wanted to give us all a shot of some drink. We were a group of believers. I refused to drink and one other of my brothers but the other 5 gulped it down and thanked him. They then got mad at us calling us legalists. These were Navigator believers. I suppose Spurgeon is ruling out 90% of your Neo-Evangelical friends...but I tend to think that perhaps someone can still be saved and drink a glass even though I strongly disagree. In fact some German reformers did didn't they?

Spurgeon boldly smoked a cigar without any misgivings and still considered himself one of the elect. I hear that Moody confronted him one day about this and Spurgeon rubbed Moodys rather large belly as he talked.

Bhedr said...

Also,

>people who held that, because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked.<

I haven't run across any free gracers yet that believe you can live anyway you like. They teach that God chastens as in the case of Jacob, David, Solomon, John Mark etc...

I may not agree with everything in Free Grace theology but I do think it is unfair to say they teach you can live anyway you want without severe consequences of God's justice.

I think the jab in the other stream was kinda unfair as well when you said they don't go to church.

What? Do you follow them around with camera's?

Sounds like some old core Independent Fundamental Baptists I grew up with:-)

"Missed you in church last Sunday!"

or

"Noticed you slipped a little on your tithing brother!Been keeping an eye on you."

:-0......:-)

Bhedr said...

BTW Phil,

I know what Spurgeon was getting at and I agree we mustn't encourage unholy living and misleading people into this quasi religious state that Hollywood/Christianity Neo-Evangelical Luis Palau type evangelism is congering up with the help of actors and such that teach that you can do whatever and be cool and confess Christ. Nashville has also turned into a breeding ground for this as well. I fully agree with your concerns there, but I also believe that there are believers that have fallen and are miserable in this state and may indeed be suffering chastening and may indeed commit the sin unto death...I am just saying we have to be careful.

For instance you stated that we are commanded to treat another person who is disobediant as an unbeliever. Phil there is a differance between treating someone as an unbeliever and *considering* someone to be an unbeliever.

In Thessolonians we are commanded not to consider an unruly person in the church to be an unbeliever and instead admonish him as a brother.

Phil Johnson said...

(Sometimes answering comments at my blog has the distinct feel of washing graffiti and rotten eggs off my garage door.)

Bobby Grow: "you seem to hold to Christ's "active obedience" to the Mosaic Law as the basis His imputed righteousness to us, which assumes the Federal continuity model of hermeneutics; while at the same time asserting that you're a dispensationalist which emphasizes discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants."

Still throwing trash at the wall to see what sticks, are we?

I doubt that I have ever "asserted" anything on this blog regarding whether I identify with dispensationalism or federal theology—either as complete systems or as smorgasbords from which I borrow elements. I'm not even interested in that conversation. That's not how I do theology.

Moreover, Christ's active obedience, which is not on the table for debate here at the moment, has nothing whatsoever to do with Spurgeon's comments (or mine) regarding the fallacies of antinomianism. And belief in the imputation of Jesus' obedience is absolutely not in conflict with anything I have ever taught or affirmed. I can't really tell if you're just being a smart-aleck or deliberately trying to be an irritant, but please stop making declarations regarding what labels I take for myself unless you can cite my own words to prove it.

And don't bother posting a follow-up trying to extend that argument. I understand the claim you're making. You're both wrong and off-topic for this post. We're not going down that rabbit trail.

Bhedr: "I hear that Moody confronted him one day about this and Spurgeon rubbed Moodys rather large belly as he talked."

Never happened. That's folklore that was invented in the 20th century. I don't believe it can be documented from any reliable source.

Also, Bhedr, the lordship discussion is over. Please don't drag those arguments into other threads on our blog. I'm thinking of firing up the topic again some week in a few months when I have nothing else to do, but in the meantime, let's give it a rest, OK?

And if your sense of humor is such that you seriously feel the need to scold me regarding a crack about "carnal Christians" whose church attendance is spotty, you prolly ought to reconsider whether this is the best place for you to hang out.

Jim said...

Phil:

"If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
1 Cor. 3:15


In light of the fact that this takes place at the Bema seat, what exactly does the phrase "yet so as by fire" mean, and what is this "loss"?

I would really like to hear your take on these verses.

jazzycat said...

Phil,
In spite of the massive Scriptural evidence given to support the lordship position here and at Pulpit the past few weeks, I am amazed at the attempts to explain it all away. Also, in spite of redundant and clear explanations that the lordship position does not add works to justification in any shape form or fashion, I am flabbergasted that some of the no-lordship people will not accept you and others at their word. I guess it is hard to let go of a straw man. The lengths and leaps of logic that some go to deny clear Scripture teaching borders on being delusional in my opinion. From the ‘outer darkness’ explanation, to the ‘repentance verses’ to the ‘four soils’ to the ‘James 2:14-26’ to ‘1 John’ and on and on we see lengthy explanations as to why these verses do not mean what they clearly say.

For the antinomian gospel to grow, the proponents must discredit lordship salvation and the only way to do this is to misrepresent the lordship position. The dangerous thing for the church is that the evidence of the last few weeks indicate that some are so committed or either blinded that they have no problem with proceeding full steam ahead at misconstruing the lordship view. To promote their view is one thing, but to distort what they oppose is quite another.

W.H.

brettmaxwell.blogspot.com said...

Phil, sorry to bring it here, but you missed the questions in my comment #377 in the last post. There was a lot of rediculous posting around it, so I can totally understand how you over-looked it. I would appreciate a reply in that post. Thank you.

Steve said...

Bhedr: "I hear that Moody confronted him one day about this and Spurgeon rubbed Moodys rather large belly as he talked."

Those who insist on continuing to give life to tales such as these reveal their dismal lack of scholarship and credibility. Authoritative source, please? It won't be found in any of the trustworthy works on these men.

Phil Johnson said...

Brett's right. I missed his question. The thread on the lordship debate is officially over, so no one should mistake this comment as an invitation to drag it out in this (or another) thread, but I owe it to Brett to make up for a comment I missed:

brettmaxwell.blogspot.com: "Phil, you have encouraged people to examine themselves frequently, even daily to see if they are a true believer. In order to make such an evaluation, must not assurance be at least momentarily extinguished? Is God asking us to frequently (daily? more?) set aside assurance in order to then regain it?"

Does a look in the mirror necessarily involve any expectation that my hair is out of place?

Note: Self-examination is not about seeing whether Christ is a sufficient Savior, or about evaluating whether I've done "enough" good works (the answer to that question is always no). It's not about looking "away from Christ" and looking to myself "instead." It involves remembering that true salvation is an indivisible union of the sinner with Christ, and therefore seeking evidence of "Christ in you, the hope of Glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Or, in MacArthur's words, "God's glory—albeit a dim reflection of that glory—is what we will see in the mirror if we are true believers [2 Corinthians 3:18]. This is the test Paul laid before the Corinthians: Can you see Christ's glory reflected in you—even dimly? Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5). The image of Christ in us thus provides the subjective ground of our assurance. In other words, Christ in you is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). [Faith Works, 166.]

There's no reason for the Christian who loves Christ to inject any degree of doubt, or even to suspend our assurance momentarily when doing that kind of self-examination. What we should expect is that we'll see precisely the evidence Scripture says we ought to find.

Now, if someone is deliberately pursuing some persistent pattern of sin or entertaining unbelief and rebellion in his heart, his assurance ought to be shaken. One of the things that mystifies me most about no-lordship doctrine is this idea that it's a bad thing to trouble the assurance of someone walking in sin, unwilling to obey Christ, or devoid of any true love for Him.

donsands said...

That reminded me of a man I brought to church one Sunday, and he said he was a Christian. He said he was blessed at church.

As I drove him home, he began to talk about girls, and other things in an ungodly way.

I simply said to him, "John, I feel you may want to check yourself out, and make sure you are a follower of Christ."

He blew up at me, and with profanity told me to mind my own business. I dropped him off, and never saw him again.

I hope the mercy of God found him.

Jonathan Hunt said...

A tip of the hat to you, Sir!

JH

Bhedr said...

Well thats why I said, "I hear tell..."

Ok Ok I prolly out to go somehwere else. I'll take my spanking from you and go on home.

Bye!

See you in a few months if your game:-)

Bhedr said...

BTW,

Why can't you guys give the anectdotal stories a rest as well?

Sometimes the smeller is the feller. I knew a guy that always warned me of antinomianism saying, "Brian beware of antinomianism!"

After Y2K he was floored and ended up joining a Rock and Roll band playing for Hollywood actors at their parties and point blank started to neglect his kids, got out of church and got into real estate.

We could go on with that stuff.

Maybe I will stay if I don't get spanked or warned again:-)

Sharon said...

Bhedr:
Why can't you guys give the anectdotal stories a rest . . . ?

You mean anecdotal stories such as,

When we were in Spain and coming back from the Gulf War a man who owned a restaurant wanted to give us all a shot of some drink. We were a group of believers. I refused to drink and one other of my brothers but the other 5 gulped it down and thanked him. They then got mad at us calling us legalists.

or,

Spurgeon boldly smoked a cigar without any misgivings and still considered himself one of the elect. I hear that Moody confronted him one day about this and Spurgeon rubbed Moodys rather large belly as he talked.

Bhedr said...

AWWWWW com on. I was responding to Spurgeons anectdotal stories so that was a legitimate anecdotal story unless Phil wants to make another rule and then we can all give it a rest:-)

Bye....my lack of patience will no longer allow me to comment...unless you stir me once again with an anecdotal response.

Ive got to go now because I have to go visit some Lordship backslidders that arent attending church anymore because they can't measure up to their own demands for righteousness and are discouraged that they are no longer elect.

Is that a story?

Lou Martuneac said...

Jazzy:

“Half-hearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond. Thus he turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price, such as the rich young ruler,” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 222).

That is an epsiode of direct evangelism. According to JM the unsaved young ruler had to make a "Commitment to pay the price or be turned away."

That is works, he wrote it, he believes it. There is no straw man!

LM

Antonio said...

Phil,

I didn't know where to put this, as you closed shop on the LS thread.

Here is a response from Bob Wilkin concerning your last post:

Hi Antonio,

I don’t recall any correspondence with Phil. I met with him for 4 hours about 3 years ago at the Grace to You Headquarters and he never brought up anything about having written me once, let alone twice, that I can recall.

If he’d contact me, I’d be happy to respond to his questions.

I should say that after I attended the Shepherd’s Conference, I think it was 2002, where they criticized GES and me by name, I contacted them and invited them to send a representative our annual conference. I suggested that whatever they let me do at their conference, I’d let their representative do at our conference. I was open to doing a workshop at their conference, or even a main session. I offered them equal time in our conference. They turned it all down.

Then I asked to meet with either MacArthur and his church staff or him and the seminary staff, to dialogue on these issues. They turned me down on that too. The only bone they offered me was to meet with Phil Johnson when I was out in So Cal. And I took them up on that.

Warmly,

Bob

Bobby Grow said...

Phil said to me:

Sometimes answering comments at my blog has the distinct feel of washing graffiti and rotten eggs off my garage door.)

thanks for deleting my response to your comment here, Phil . . . you're a real stand-up kind of guy.