posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Rivers of Water in a Dry Place," a sermon preached on Sunday morning 11 July 1875 at the Met Tab in London.
NOTE: Arminians and high Calvinists alike often misunderstand or misconstrue the point Spurgeon is making in this weekend's excerpt (black text below). Spurgeon was an unabashed Calvinist—a full five-pointer. He emphatically rejected the notion that Christ died for all persons alike. From the start of his ministry to the end he believed in the Calvinistic doctrine of particular redemption. Here is his critique of the Arminian view:
The Arminian holds that Christ, when He died, did not die with an intent to save any particular person; and they teach that Christ's death does not in itself secure, beyond doubt, the salvation of any one man living. They believe that Christ died to make the salvation of all men possible, or that by the doing of something else, any man who pleases may attain unto eternal life; consequently, they are obliged to hold that if man's will would not give way and voluntarily surrender to grace, then Christ's atonement would be unavailing. They hold that there was no particularity and speciality in the death of Christ.
Christ died, according to them, as much for Judas in Hell as for Peter who mounted to Heaven. They believe that for those who are consigned to eternal fire, there was a true and real a redemption made as for those who now stand before the throne of the Most High.
Now, we believe no such thing. We hold that Christ, when He died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly, and beyond a doubt, be accomplished.
We measure the design of Christ's death by the effect of it. If any one asks us, "What did Christ design to do by His death?" we answer that question by asking him another—"What has Christ done, or what will Christ do by His death?" For we declare that the measure of the effect of Christ's love, is the measure of the design of it.
We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the atonement, can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold—we are not afraid to say that we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving "a multitude which no man can number;" and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father's throne.
We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think 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.
Nevertheless, Spurgeon also despised the view of those high Calvinists who insist that the sufficiency of the atonement can be no greater than its efficacy. He held to the classic Dordtian formula that "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."
Spurgeon was annoyed with pedantic high Calvinists who believed the particularity of the atonement could be properly defended only by denying its infinite sufficiency. Here is his response to that brand of Calvinism:
esus is as rivers of water, because he is full of grace and truth. It would be a very difficult thing to calculate the body of water to be found in the Thames, but in rivers such as our American friends are favored with it must be almost beyond the power of mind to conceive the mass of water that must come rolling down into the sea. Gallons and hogsheads seem quite ridiculous by the side of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence.
I always feel very fidgety when theologians begin making calculations about the Lord Jesus. There used to be a very strong contention about particular redemption and general redemption, and though I confess myself to be to the very backbone a believer in Calvinistic doctrine, I never felt at home in such discussions. It is one thing to believe in the doctrines of grace, but quite another thing to accept all the encrustations which have formed upon those doctrines, and also a very different matter to agree with the spirit which is apparent in some who profess to propagate the pure truth.
I can have nothing to do with calculating the value of the atonement of Christ. I see clearly the speciality of the purpose and intent of Christ in presenting his expiatory sacrifice, but I cannot see a limit to its preciousness, and I dare not enter into computations as to its value or possible efficacy. Appraisers and valuers are out of place here. Sirs, I would like to see you with your slates and pencils calculating the cubical contents of the Amazon: I would be pleased to see you sitting down and estimating the quantity of fluid in the Ganges, the Indus, and the Orinoco; but when you have done so, and summed up all the rivers of this earth, I will tell you that your task was only fit for school-boys, and that you are not at the beginning of that arithmetic which can sum up the fullness of Christ, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. His merit, his power, his love, his grace surpass all knowledge, and consequently all estimate. Limits are not to be found, neither shore nor bottom are discoverable.
Instead of coldly calculating with a view to systematize our doctrines, let us joyfully sing with the poet of the sanctuary—
In a rich ocean join;
Salvation in abundance flows,
Like floods of milk and wine."
All idea of stint or insufficiency is out of place in reference to the Lord Jesus. When any man enquires, "Is there enough merit in the Savior's death to make atonement for my sin?" The answer is, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." When any say, "Perhaps I may not taste his love and believe on his name," the reply is, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely."