20 August 2011

"Thy Word"--not that voice in my head--"is truth"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

Spurgeon



The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Our Lord's Prayer for His People's Sanctification," preached on Sunday Morning, 7 March 1886 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.




"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."—John 17:17.

What is the truth? There is the point. Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special revelation, and am I to order my life by voices, dreams, and impressions?

Brethren, fall not into this common delusion. God's word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the truth that sanctifies men is in God's Word. Do not listen to those who cry, "Lo here!" and "Lo there!"

I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who have revelations. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him; and I reply, "No, sir, the Lord knows where I dwell, and he is so near to me that he would not need to send to me by you."

Another man announces in God's name a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Ghost. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so; but we know that the Holy Ghost never contradicts himself.

If your imaginary revelation is not according to this Word, it has no weight with us; and if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing.

Brethren, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it, and quicken it by his Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine; your message, nor mine. Jesus says, "Thy word is truth." That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular truth which is revealed in God's Word—"Thy word is truth."

What a blessing it is that all the truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering truth, but may, to our far greater profit, use revealed truth for its divine ends and purposes! There will be no more revelations; no more are needed. The canon is fixed and complete, and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book.

What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

C. H. Spurgeon


52 comments:

j.r. said...

Perhaps this was mentioned in the past, but is Spurgeon a hypocrite? A liar? Deceived? Or are you applying his words in a way that he would not have applied them?

"While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, 'There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!' A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, 'Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?' 'Yes,' replied the man, 'I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God's grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul' "

Peter W. said...

j.r.
Alternatively, Spurgeon is quite right. Noone is fool enough to claim that there is no specific truth whatsoever external to the Bible. The Bible isn't an encyclopaedic history of everything, it doesn't tell you that I personally cycled to the shops this morning, and yet that is a specifically true statement.

Perhaps instead you could more generously assume that Spurgeon is talking about theological truth, and general truth about the world. Perhaps he means truth specifically about God and His nature and the things He has done. Perhaps he is speaking of God's design an intent for our lives, made clear through the Bible even is not specific in detail, specific enough that when confronted with someone saying "I think God wants you to do this" you can robustly respond depending on whether that aligns with Scripture or not?

For my sins I would call myself charismatic, but such an absurb response to Spurgeons words on those grounds makes me want to weep.

donsands said...

Excellent word from the prince of preachers. Thanks for knowing Surgeon so well, and sharing his messages.

"If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free"-Jesus, (John 8:30-32).

Lord bless TeamPyro, these three amigos who love You, and labor in the Word for Your glory. Amen.

Joshua Elsom said...

A good source for Spurgeon quotes - http://www.confluenceblog.com/tags/dead-guys

Joshua Elsom said...

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, ‘The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door’” (The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, [Curts & Jennings, 1899], Vol. II, pp. 226-227).

Joshua Elsom said...

What are we to make of this? My opinion is that this is a perfect and not uncommon example of what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Spurgeon exercised the gift of prophecy. He did not label it as such, but that does not alter the reality of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise! ~ Sam Storms

j.r. said...

Hi Peter W,

Not sure I follow your comment. I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek. I don't believe Spurgeon is a hypocrite, liar or deceived, but suggesting that Spurgeon's understanding of "charismatic" gifts are not necessarily those of Team Pyro, despite the quote.

I have no idea what to call it, but I have had particular experiences that I would say are from the Lord and they were very similar to Spurgeon's.

DJP said...

Good heavens.

Is there a "Leaky Canoneers E-Z Cut-n-Paste" web site with these irrelevancies for use any time anyone affirms Scripture's self-witness?

Honestly, the way desperate "continuationists" run to one or two CHS anecdotes every time he or anyone affirms Scriptural sufficiency reminds me of nothing more than how advocates of a certain specific perversion reconstruct relationships like Jonathan and David, Frodo and Sam, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Batman and Robin. Or how feminists never tire of bringing up Priscilla, Phoebe, and one or two other instances despite endless repeated devastating refutations.

I'd love to see a logician graph the reasoning. "Spurgeon preached something once that was used by the Spirit with an uncanny application... so Charismaticism is valid!"

Maybe Phil should just re-run this post weekly for a month or two until it stops?

Joshua Elsom said...

Well Dan while Spurgeon carries a lot of weight in the Reformed community his pronouncements were not delivered ex cathedra. I am certain you'd affirm this.

So I'm not going to just drop my continuationalist theology simply because Papa Spurgeon didn't share my view. My point in posting the quote above followed by Storm's commentary was to point out that Spurgeon's theology and his experience were at odds. I don't pretend to make Spurgeon a proto-R-type Charismatic. He was who he was. So chill bro, no one is trying to claim him as their own. :)

DJP said...

Well then you're wrong three times, aren't you?

Unless you have a bigger Bible than I, you aren't really a continuationist, so you're wrong to say you're one.

You're wrong to try to make any connection between what Charismatics do differently than other Christians and the revelatory gifts of Scripture.

And, unless you can point to Spurgeon saying that God moved him to babble incoherently and called it (contrary to Scripture) tongues, or spoke audibly to him in non-Scriptural words (a la Driscoll "Jesus told me"), or showed him porno flicks in his head (Driscoll again), or a dozen other "continuationist" errors, you're wrong to hint that this was in any way at variance with his uniting with all pre-1906 Christians in affirming the sufficiency of Scripture.

As Phil pointed out, which you'll see when you read the linked article.

If you're waiting for me to "chill" in warning about what a dangerous distraction "continuationism" is, well, brother, I beg you: do not hold your breath.

Joshua Elsom said...

No Dan I really am a continuationalist. I promise and my Bible has the same number of pages as yours, I assure you. I see absolutely no connection between modern day prophecy and Sola Scriptura.

I may be wrong on your second point. Not sure what you are trying to say brother.

As to your third. I don't need to give you an example of Spurgeon and the gift of tongues because I've already provided you with an example of him exercising a gift that gave him supernatural knowledge. This puts the man at odds with his cessationist position. You can make up a term like "extraordinary providence" for what happened to him if it makes you feel better but I am not sure why you'd want to use two new words for what he experienced when we already have one perfectly good biblical word...prophecy.

I understand your concern for what you perceive as being dangerous brother. I am not asking you to chill at that point. I was simply trying to tell you that I am not trying to prove that Spurgeon was one of us. That's it.

BTW, would you consider what happened to Spurgeon (what I am calling prophecy) dangerous and a distraction? Or would you say that it was beneficial and profitable?

j.r. said...

Wow! I wasn't really expecting such a knee-jerk response from, DJP, but this is the internet, so I guess, what else should I expect?

As Joshua points out, Spurgeon wasn't speaking ex cathedra, neither has any other reforming, including in their pronouncement of "solo scriptura". The Scriptures flat teach gifts. The issue: do the Scriptures teach they stopped?

Obviously, there is a difference on that question. Rolling out tired cliches of "bigger Bibles", etc., is just sill, DJP.

I lean in the directions of cessationism, but I have tendency to notice what grouches and how testy most cessationists are, but the continuationists seem to be jolly & gracious. Those things alone push me into the continuationist camp. Yea, yea, I know...

j.r. said...

Looking through the page linked by DJP merely makes me ask my first set of questions again.

I will maintain - y'all be applying his words wrong.

Jason M. Woelm said...

"I have tendency to notice what grouches and how testy most cessationists are, but the continuationists seem to be jolly & gracious."

PLEASE don't go there...just don't. We won't get anywhere with anecdotal evidence. You can say how testy cessationists are, and I can tell you how continuationists believe they're holier than thou. We can both come up with exceptions, yada, yada, yada...no clear point has been made.

However, lifting a quote from Spurgeon via Sam Storms in the Counterpoints book "Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today?" really doesn't help...especially when Richard Gaffin rebuts it in his response quite well.

Frank Rue said...

If Leaky-Canoneers are called such because they fail to grasp the entirety of Scripture's message on said canon's completeness, it would be logical to assume that any author they read would similarly be misinterpreted.

Point in case? See above comments.

Frank Turk said...

That darn Spurgy -- I thought he was a continualist!

Frank Turk said...

OK, Now I read the other comments, and I really like it that Spurgeon must now also be a liar to denounce the ravings of others but to admit he himself had a moment or two where God gave him an intuition about some event.

Listen: when I met my wife for the first time, I knew for certain that I was supposed to marry her. I knew with no doubt -- except in myself to be man enough to win her heart. That is: I knew the outcome was mine to screw up, if it was possible.

It's the only time in my life I had that kind of insight -- information tethered to nothing else except the sight of the person. And to make this clear, the night before, my wife had slept in a moving truck because there was no room in the inn, so she wasn't walking into the room as the belle of the ball.

But here's the thing: that event cannot shape the rest of my theology. It is an exception, not the rule. And it doesn't make me a liar to affirm that I knew something that I had no scientific, forensic or historical basis to affirm.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Wow, this testimony from Spurgeon is amazing (I'd not read it before). That as many as a dozen times he had this direct knowledge which turned out to be specific and accurate is stunning.

I believe him, knowing his character and his record. Still, would this be the "gift" of prophecy, or the operation of the Holy Spirit as he will? The latter, I would have to say. Spurgeon does not say he sought this gift or could operate it at his choosing.

Joshua Elsom said...
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Matthew Celestis said...

So does Spurgeon's supposed revelation about the shoemaker have any bearing on whether Sunday is the Sabbath?

Joshua Elsom said...

With all do respect Frank your story, which is sweet, is far different than what Spurgeon and many many others have experienced. While I would not dismiss the possibility that God may have been granting you some sort of prescient grace about your wife and your future marriage it does not quite rise to the same level of remarkability.

I don't think Spurgeon was being a liar I just think he filed those experiences in a different theological folder than me.

God very clearly graced Spurgeon with supernatural knowledge. Spurgeon himself said that he wielded this knowledge believing that he was moved by the Spirit to do so. And what was the result? Spurgeon said "persons have gone away, and said to their friends, "‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.'"

Spurgeon said he was moved by the Spirit of God to speak and then he applied John 4:1-42 to his experiences. I am not sure how you can avoid this. He might not have believed in the ongoing continuation of the gift of prophecy but he did believe that God gave him supernatural extra-biblical revelation in at least a dozen cases. Then he applied a prophetic passage of Scripture to himself.

If an R-type Charismatic publicly shared a similar story today they'd likely find themselves the topic of discussion on Team Pyro.

I can see it now. "Pastor So-n-so claims from the pulpit to have been moved by the Spirit to point out the sins of his congregants. This cannot be because Habakkuk says that God's eyes are to pure to see evil and He cannot look at wrong. Avoid this man's teaching."

Joshua Elsom said...
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Joshua Elsom said...

No it does not Matthew. But it does prove that NT prophets give fallible utterances.

DJP said...

For newcomers: since no Charismatic has produced one event in the 100+ years since Charismaticism was invented that is on a par with Biblical phenomena, they have put themselves under the imperative to "Clinton down" the Biblical phenomena, to give false cover to modern fakes.

They will of course deny it and try to argue for their case — and the very fact of their argument will undo that case. But that is the explanation for what otherwise would baffle any clear-eyed, Biblically-instructed observer. They only have two options: that, or repent and join nearly two millennia of Biblically-faith in affirming Scripture's real-live sufficiency, and focusing on Christ and His Word rather than desperately searching for the non-existent.

"Continuationism" is on life-support, kept alive by a state of denial and traditionalistic wish-fulfillment. Nothing more.

j.r. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donsands said...

Ch Spurgeon surely is "the prince of preachers". Yet he is man, just like every man, and he would agree I'm sure. Christ is the only man to put on a pedestal, no one else. We can appreciate others, and their giftedness, and the grace which our Father has bestowed upon them, but that's about it.

Even Peter was a man. His epistles are sacred words, but his whole life is full of sin. As was David, and Solomon, and even Paul, though Paul was blessed with a triple portion of grace seems to me.

Have a blessed Lord's day in our Father's sovereign love and grace.

Joshua Elsom said...

Amen Donsands and the same to you!

Wamalo said...

Joshua: But it does prove that NT prophets give fallible utterances.

Please would you point those out as I would like to remove them from my NT.

Joshua Elsom said...

Wamalo I've already provided you one...Spurgeon. Unless you are a dispensationalist you'd have to agree that he is a NT saint.

Spurgeon was graced with secret knowledge about what the shoemaker was up to the previous Sunday. Unfortunately he tied this revelation to an errant sabbatarian theology. So if we are to accept that God gave him this knowledge we are left with only two options. Either God affirmed, through Spurgeon, that Sunday is the new Saturday, or he was right about the shoemaker but was wrong about the Sabbath. The infallible revelation he received was contaminated by his mortal fallen mind so he delivered a fallible message. Same thing happens every Sunday in a 1000 pulpits. The infallible Word of God is filtered through fallible minds and delivered through mortal lips. I dare say that you'd never suggest that we despise the gift of preaching just because it takes the infallible Word of God and contaminates it with bad exegesis and poor delivery.

Ought we to despise prophecy because of these same things? God forbid. We test all things and hold on to that which is true.

j.r. said...

Jason, as Nike says, "Just do it!" I will definitely go there, because it is completely relevant to the discussion. This is merely your attempt to frame the discussion in a way that suits your fancy. "Anecdotes" are vitally important. If the "gifts" of the Spirit aren't operative, can we at least expect to see the "fruit" of the Spirit? Do you expect to judge someone by their fruit? Or do you just pawn that off as anecdotal?

The reason you want to couch the discussion this way is so that any time I point to a particular "gift" of the Spirit, you will merely claim it is anecdotal. For example, back in 2000, I was praying one morning and a strong impression came over me to preach the Gospel to so & so. The person is famous and I never expected to see him. A friend and I go downtown, walk around the corner, and said individual is coming down a flight of stairs, so I preached the Gospel to him. You will pawn it off as an anecdote, b/c you need your understanding of solo scriptura to be the way it is, but, again, the Scriptures speak to the gifts & I've seen them operate.

So, the "anecdotes" are important, b/c I fully expect to see the fruit of the Spirit in a believers life. Your knee-jerk response, again, points in the direction that those that oppose continuatinists are often grouchy.

If I judge them by their fruit - I lean continuationist, esp. the likes of Piper, Storms, Spurgeon, Knox, Bunyan, etc., etc., etc.

Matthew Celestis said...

Joshua, if you believe that Spurgeon received this knowledge through the Holy Spirit and this resulted in somebody being successfully convicted of 'sabbath-breaking' maybe you ought to revise your theology of the Sabbath. If it's the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures who gave Spurgeon his prophetic knowledge, we ought to expect a bit of theological consistency.

I think so anyway.

Joshua Elsom said...

Matthew - It was Spurgeon who claims that this knowledge came from the Spirit of God. As I said above, establishing Sunday as the new Sabbath would be one option. However, since that would establish new doctrine we will reject that portion of the utterance and hang on to what is good. Namely, what he said to the shoemaker.

Does that clear up my position?

Jason M. Woelm said...

Matthew--

Richard Gaffin made the EXACT same comment on Spurgeon's comment on the Sabbath, and Storms replied almost exactly as Joshua did. My point? Continuationists are not usually convinced of any argument, because they have a functional charistmatic magisterium that CANNOT be questioned, as it is based on infallible experience. I would not, however, fall into their trap of comparing experiences, because, to be honest, they really don't settle the matter. Scripture does, and, according to continuationists, as Dan has said, in the age of types and shadows, prophecy had to be 100% accurate, but in the age of the pure, infallible, glorious substance of Jesus Christ, and His body the church, who works in Christ's stead while He is away, prophecy can be about 50/50 (more often than not, less). Unbelievable.

I mean, does that even make sense? Oh, wait--this is continuationism were talking about. It's not about sense--it's about experience.

Joshua Elsom said...

The door swings both ways Jason. I could easily make the same accusations about your position but that certainly would not answer any of the relevant objections or questions being presented. So rather than attacking this from the flanks and psychoanalyzing one another's motivations how about we address the most important questions which have, up unto this point, not been answered by any of my cessationist brothers.

Spurgeon attributes his supernatural knowledge to the work of the Holy Spirit; he said that he did not know whether or not what he said was true; after having delivered this revelatory information to the appropriate party Spurgeon says that they went away quoting John 4:29 (This passage and Spurgeon's application of it should be understood in light of John 4:19, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet."). Given this information how would you answer the following questions?

Was Spurgeon right or wrong in attributing this secret knowledge to the work of the Holy Spirit?

If he was wrong by what power did he receive this knowledge?

If he was right is he guilty of violating Sola Scriptura?

Joshua Elsom said...

BTW, what was the name of the Sam Storms book?

donsands said...

Josh, The Bible is the sacred Word of our Lord, and you agree, that's good. And you cannot add to His Scriptures, nor take away; and it's very serious if any one ever does that.

Does our Sovereign Lord move within His people to do His will, and even bring to life a dead soul, and so make a heart of hatred and hardness, a heart of tenderness and love?

God works sovereignty in His universe, and even the coincidences are under His sovereignty. But we must never say the Lord told me, or the Lord put these words in my heart, and I spoke them. No way my friend. No way.

Wamalo said...

Joshua,

I've already provided you one...Spurgeon. Unless you are a dispensationalist you'd have to agree that he is a NT saint.

Well yes I do agree that he is a saint, as are all who are in Christ. But you actually started out using the word 'prophet' and then switched to using 'saint'. Not sure about you but those two words have somewhat different meanings to me so I find myself asking why? Perhaps bait and switch in an attempt to make a convincing point or do you actually use those terms synonymously? Regardless that does nothing to clarify what you are saying. Are all saints prophets in the sense of however you understand continuing NT prophecy? Or are only some saints prophets in that sense?

Furthermore do you place receiving an extra-biblical revelation (as per your Spurgeon example)in the same 'prophetic' category as expounding and explaining that which has already been revealed? Really?

Another concerning aspect of your response, and correct me if I am wrong, is that you are placing Spurgeon and his prophecies in the exact same category as those of the NT Apostles/prophets who actually penned the NT under divine inspiration. If so then was the infallible revelation (they) received ... contaminated by (their) mortal fallen mind so (they) delivered a fallible message as well. As such is there any reason we shouldn't add Spurgeon's prophecies to the NT canon? Or alternatively remove all NT Apostle's prophecies from the NT canon?

And that was the question I was asking. Not about your seemingly trite categorical arrangements but if that is what you actually believe.

I don't know but in my opinion DJP's "Clinton Down" response appears to be rather more pertinent. No?

j.r. said...

Reading through some of this, it is kinda "funny". The two sides are basically speaking two different languages. The not today guys keep trying to bully with a - "How dare you undermine Scripture? How dare you? Don't do it! Very serious!"

And the for today guys are, no, I take the Bible seriously and that's why I believe in the gifts.

That final day will let us know.

Jason M. Woelm said...

Joshua,

Seeing as how I am a former continuationist and am still friends with many of them, I think that I can "psychoanalyze" continuationist motivations. Have you ever read D.A. Carson's (a "continuationist" himself) comments on continuationists who appeal to experience? Look them up in "Showing the Spirit." Enlightening, I think.

As far as Spurgeon goes, here's a fact about "continuationist" stories that usually go unchecked--was the story actually accurately reported? This is the bane of many so-called continuationists' "experiences." Usually, when they are scrutinized, they fall apart.

However, if the story has been accurately reported, whatever it was, it CANNOT be called "revelation." That is a very specific term regarding inerrant, infallible, must-be-obeyed-at-all-costs instruction from God. This is the point Dan was making earlier. Continuationists get sloppy with their terminology, and every feeling, urge, nudge, notion, or whatever becomes "revelation." And, when that happens, they can just "Clinton-down" the gifts and say, "See, they're the same!" (And, btw, they have to slander Agabus to do it, too.)

A good reading on providence would do continuationists so. much. good.

The book I have been referring to is "Are Miraculous Gifts For Today," a book in the Zondervan Counterpoints series. Grudem edits it, and four viewpoints are represented. Gaffin, the cessationist, deals with all of these issues rather well.

My answer--providence.

stonetoflesh said...

I'm not a regular here, but as a Christian I'd like to offer some advice. It seems like the majority of what is being said here, with a few exceptions, is lacking the seasoning of grace. I think there are many things said in the blogosphere that the Christian would say online, that he would never say (at least in such a sharp tone) to their neighbor face to face; especially to someone for whom Christ died. It's fine to take shots, just make sure it's not friendly-fire.

donsands said...

"that he would never say (at least in such a sharp tone)"-stone

I'm not sharp in my tone. But, someone could mistake that, unless they were face to face with me.
Just saying.

DJP said...

A sharp tone is perfectly appropriate when one's about to head off a cliff blithely and without concern. "Continuationism" in its distinctives has ruined lives and churches, and shamed Christ's name. It's worth any tone that reaches anyone, and what doesn't work for one will work for another.

David Sheldon said...

Spurgeon states that John 17:17 tells us that God’s Word is fixed and it is Scripture. People are deluded who think otherwise. Pretty straightforward I would say. No “special revelations” at his place of ministry.

By Spurgeon’s testimony we know that God acted upon his brain cells to give him accurate knowledge of things which he knew not by any other means. But did he equate that knowledge with divine revelation or the prophetic Scripture – God’s speaking the Word? NO!

Does not God “act” in providence, even upon our minds, and at times do not those “acts” seem very real (subjective) – as if – God is “speaking” to us? But we confuse the issue. They are not God speaking, they are God acting. Spurgeon obviously did not equate the phenomenon he experienced with God SPEAKING to him. He even states such - I was MOVED by the Spirit to say it. He did NOT say – the Spirit spoke to Me His Word and then I spoke that Word to the man in the assembly. Nor did he then, based upon his experience, come up with some formula to tune himself to hear some voice, dream or impression – thinking he was to hear God’s voice as if He was speaking apart from His Word! (Charismania) The Scripture gives internal testimony of both these things: God speaks – His Word and God acts/gifts – His providence. Is it easy to miss this difference in God’s dealings? Evidently! Spurgeon knew the difference and therefore this sermon is not double-talk as some might think. God acted through Spurgeon and the thing he “spoke” to the man was that everything is laid bare before Him with whom we have to deal – just like Hebrews 4:13 says – and God, not Spurgeon, acted in coming up with the proof. Rather decisive wouldn’t you say?

His perfect acts/gifts upon or through vessels (just like His perfect Word) can be misinterpreted by those same vessels. And not only can they be misinterpreted – their distinguishableness can be confused. But God does not have to “speak” even to a king in order to move that king to divert his course. Nor does the king have to “hear” to be moved. And the Apostles never gave “how to” instructions for mystically “hearing God’s voice” (even though our “Christian” bookstores are filled with such nonsense) because of these two distinguishable and distinct things: God’s Word and God’s providence/acts/gifts. And, in fact, some take what the Bible has to say about the His gifts and His Word so very seriously, that they realize some of those gifts have certainly ceased in their operation as they did during the time of the apostles and prophets. But the Word of God endures forever.

And that is why, even when Spurgeon experienced that which he experienced, would then say:

“If your imaginary revelation is not according to this Word, it has no weight with us; and if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing.”

Can anyone in our day say it more plainly than that?

Considering what is happening in our “evangelical” churches these days -this is a most timely sermon. The battle for the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture rages on. Don’t miss it. It would seem another spirit has invaded our churches for the purpose of God’s judgment.

Phil - Can’t wait to hear you at the Discernment 2011 conference near Wooster, Ohio September 9,10 www.wretchedradio.com

David Sheldon
Mansfield, Ohio

Joshua Elsom said...

Stonetoflesh - Thank you for calling us to civility, humility, respect and to remembering who we are in Christ. However, I hold no ill will toward any of my growing number of opponents in this discussion. They believe that I am a threat to the Body of Christ and they are taking due action against me. If the subject were different and the tables were turned I'd certainly be much more forward and sharp in my tone. Additionally, I do not think that their barrels are aimed directly at me, rather I think that they are aimed at what they perceive are the logical out working of my theology. They see the abuses of the gifts and therefore assume that the fountain head of the stream is the problem. For these reason I excuse their tone, knowing that it is coming ultimately from a very honorable and reverential heart.

From my position their fight against contiuationalism is obviously a zeal without knowledge (I am sure the feeling is mutual).

I can't address everyone of the questions being asked of me so if I have not, by the end of this comment, answered a specific question let me know and I will try my best with the time I have available today to get back to you.

Wamalo - I switched from "prophet" to "saint" because all NT prophets are NT saints. Had I switched it around, from "saint" to "prophet" I'd have made a mistake because not all NT saints are NT prophets. No bait and switch.

"Furthermore do you place receiving an extra-biblical revelation (as per your Spurgeon example)in the same 'prophetic' category as expounding and explaining that which has already been revealed? Really?"

No. I place Spurgeon in the same category as Philip the Evangelist's four daughters who also prophesied. To date we have not yet found any mms. entitled "The Gospel According to the Daughters of Philip". Even if we did find one it would not be canonical and for those very same reasons neither would be the utterances of CH Spurgeon.

"As such is there any reason we shouldn't add Spurgeon's prophecies to the NT canon? Or alternatively remove all NT Apostle's prophecies from the NT canon?"

I think my answer above will suffice. I will add, however, that we are given no command to judge Scripture or the teaching of the Apostles but we are given a command to judge prophecies. I think it should also be mentioned that the biggest contributor to the NT canon was not an Apostle but a doctor.

Joshua Elsom said...

Jason M. Woelm - "Seeing as how I am a former continuationist and am still friends with many of them, I think that I can "psychoanalyze" continuationist motivations."

I am a former cessationist and I could do the same but again that does not address the relevant question and objections of this topic.

"As far as Spurgeon goes, here's a fact about "continuationist" stories that usually go unchecked--was the story actually accurately reported?"

I have provided a first hand report from Spurgeon himself. I don't expect that he, being a cessationist himself, would inflate the story to make it appear more charismatic.

"My answer--providence."

From our perspective providence is God ordained, God decreed and God guided serendipity. While God most assuredly guided Spurgeon in His providence to speak things which were previously unknown that alone does not answer the most important question. Namely, by what mechanism did God work His providence in Spurgeon?

That has yet to be answered.

David Sheldon - You have written much and I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into your comment. But if I may, for lack of time, distill what you have said, it appears that you are saying, "God did not 'speak' to Spurgeon and thereby deliver secret information to him. Rather, the Spirit of God 'acted' upon him so that he knew the secret information." Is that fair?

If so I think we are merely separated by semantics. You say that God acted upon His mind to speak so providentially and accurately that people left their encounter calling Spurgeon a prophet and I say God spoke. If that is language you are comfortable with then that is fine with me. Now all you need to do to make the jump from God "acting" and God "speaking" is to accept that God will, from time to time, increase the amplitude and volume of His "acting".

To all:

To diminish and limit what Spurgeon, the shoemaker, the boy with the stolen gloves, and the dozen other people not specifically mentioned to mere providence is to demean the work of God's Spirit in His people today. That I believe is what is so ironic about Dan's Clinton-down article. From our perspective you are guilty of the very thing we are accused of.

I have yet to receive any answer to my three questions above. They were:

Was Spurgeon right or wrong in attributing this secret knowledge to the work of the Holy Spirit?

If he was wrong, by what power did he receive this knowledge?

If he was right, is he guilty of violating Sola Scriptura?

Joshua Elsom said...

Oh yeah, almost forgot Phil - Can’t wait to hear you at the Discernment 2011 conference near Dallas in October. www.wretchedradio.com

Jason M. Woelm said...

To use the word "diminish" in order to categorize something as "providence" proves everything Dan, Phil, and other cessationists have been saying--you're really diminishing God and His perfect plan. Period.

To answer your obviously leading questions, 1) If Spurgeon got that insight from the Holy Spirit, it was providence. If he was wrong, well, he's a sinner like the rest of us. 2) If he was wrong, then it came from a fabrication of his imagination. 3) Sola Scriptura, as James White has aptly said, "is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith for the Church." Whether or not Spurgeon violated that, I leave that up to you. But I'll say this: I violate it when I make a judgment based upon my fear of man instead of God's Word, but my Lord still forgives and cleanses me.

Joshua Elsom said...

Jason M. Woelm - Thanks for your response. You said:

"To use the word "diminish" in order to categorize something as "providence" proves everything Dan, Phil, and other cessationists have been saying--you're really diminishing God and His perfect plan. Period."

That is not exactly what I said. I said for one to "diminish and limit what Spurgeon, the shoemaker, the boy with the stolen gloves, and the dozen other people not specifically mentioned to mere providence is to demean the work of God's Spirit in His people today." For you to lift out only the word "diminish" and to present it as the main thrust of my comment is misrepresentation. I did not suggest that Spurgeon's experience was without providence. Far from it. As a matter of fact in the same comment I said,

From our perspective providence is God ordained, God decreed and God guided serendipity. While God most assuredly guided Spurgeon in His providence to speak things which were previously unknown that alone does not answer the most important question. Namely, by what mechanism did God work His providence in Spurgeon?

Clearly it was a providential experience; God orchestrated everything perfectly, according to His eternal decree and for His infinite glory. My complaint is this. Providence does not carry a large enough definition for what happened to Spurgeon, the shoemaker, the boy with the stolen gloves and those dozen nameless and faceless people. So from my perspective, limiting Spurgeon's acquisition of secret knowledge to providence does violence against the clear working of the Spirit upon Spurgeon,

You went on to answer my questions, for which I am grateful. However, you called them obviously leading. I am not sure how they were leading. Reread my original citation from Spurgeon's autobiography and you will see that I was completely faithful to what he said. I suspect that you call my questions "obviously leading" because you did not like the obvious and unavoidable conclusion they were ultimately leading you toward. Namely that Spurgeon received supernatural secret knowledge and that he claimed that this knowledge was communicated (in some way) via the work of the Spirit.

Joshua Elsom said...

Your answers to my questions:

1) If Spurgeon got that insight from the Holy Spirit, it was providence. If he was wrong, well, he's a sinner like the rest of us.

You've essentially articulated my position. Spurgeon received insight/knowledge/information/revelation providentially from the Spirit.

2) If he was wrong, then it came from a fabrication of his imagination.

Spurgeon not only was right but he also said that the people that he spoke to walked away quoting Scripture that pointed to him as a prophet. Since it was not the fabrication of his imagination then by what power was he able to know this secret information?

3) Sola Scriptura, as James White has aptly said, "is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith for the Church." Whether or not Spurgeon violated that, I leave that up to you.

I agree with James White. We test revelation by that infallible rule of faith. If you are leaving the question to me, I will emphatically tell you that Spurgeon did not violate Sola Scriptura.

I find it incredibly interesting that when we experience the same exact things as Papa Spurgeon and when we suggest that this should not be completely outside of the normal life of the Church today we are lambasted as false teachers, dangerous, distracting and accused of blaspheming and adding to the Scripture. If you are being consistent you ought to be applying these same pejorative labels to the Prince of Preachers.

I will close with this final question my brother. If we promise to stop using the word/s "prophecy/God said/I heard god say" and exchange it for the much preferred word "providence", is it okay that we still experience the same providential work of the Spirit in our lives that Spurgeon experienced? Can we convict men of their sin and call them to repentance by the secret knowledge that God providentially places in our heads and still be in good space with you guys? I trust that logic, honesty and consistency will lead you in your answer.

BTW, the question is not meant for you alone Jason, it is open to all who have commented on this article, to include the author.

Grace and Peace

asher noah selah said...

Excellent points Joshua. I am regularly confounded by those who would say they believe in "Sola Scriptura" but at the same time disqualify much of what is taught in the New Testament as arbitrarily not applying to us today. It seems to me that Paul is abundantly clear about when prophecy will end in 1 Corinthians 13. It is when "that which is Perfect has come." exegesis of that passage makes it abundantly clear that this is not until the culmination of all things. I also find it strange that another common strategy of cessationists is to redefine the clear meaning of the word "propheteo" in the Greek. It means what it means and that is not preaching or teaching.

DJP said...

You misspelled "continuationists." Cessationists affirm that prophecy is inerrant, morally-binding direct revelation. "Continuationists" try to dumb it down to accommodate their fakery.

Joshua Elsom said...

You know Dan, you are right. I did misspell it, thank you. That al likes to sneak its way in there. :)

The fact that you've caught my spelling error tells me that you've read my comments (thank you) and if you've read my comments and your response has been limited to a simple spelling correction then I am quite satisfied knowing that my arguments are strong and that you (Jason Woelm aside) are largely unwilling to answer my questions.

A fitting end to this thread for me.

You'll like this part. Last night as I sat at the keyboard typing away, my wife reminded me that I had, just a week ago, repented of spending too much time on the computer. I justified my writing by telling her that this was not a Facebook debate and that the subject was not over Calvinism but over Continuationalism [sic]. She did not understand the distinction and went to bed angry and alone. After I finished posting on another article I went to explain to her why she should not be upset. She did not buy it. So I laid on the bed and said lets talk it out. I asked her to help me figure out how the Gospel applied to my apparent sin and what my motivation was for engaging so vigorously in online debate. We uncovered a few things that may or may not have been true and I lay unconvinced and undeterred in my resolve to fight this one to the end.

I took notice of my stubbornness and said how about we pray to God and see what He might reveal (providentially). So I did. I prayed, "Almighty Father you know our hearts better than we could ever know them and you have sent your Spirit to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment with regard to Jesus. Search my heart Almighty Spirit and if there be any wicked way in me reveal it Lord. Blow through me Spirit and show me if there is sin." As I sat there searching my heart my wife said something that blew me away. She said "You are hoping that [a particular person] will read this and call you a hero."

An hour or so before I laid my head down on that pillow I had run through my head a scenario of this exact person happening upon my comments and smiling with delight and contacting me for defending this theology so well. She spoke with such accuracy and so specifically to what had gone on in my heart that I knew it was of God. After she said what she did I actually began to laugh. It was wonderful and undeniably God communicating with His son and He used my wife to uncover what was rotten and hidden deep within my heart. He revealed that there has been enough sin in my motivation to write that it has contaminated the whole. So what am I to say except. "Yes Lord!"

So with that testimony aside, which will most assuredly be met with some level of skepticism, I bid you adieu. Perhaps we can pick it up another day if it seems good to us and to the Spirit. And perhaps by then one of you dear brothers can answer my final question above which remains unanswered.

Grace and Peace.