If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinner.The above statement is taken from his sermon The Warrant of Faith (preached on September 20, 1862; you can listen to it here) and appears to contradict an important Calvinist distinctive. What makes it so powerful is that Spurgeon said the above, not Jacob Arminius.
So what did Charles Spurgeon believe? Was Reformed in every way except this one area of theology?
Before interacting with Spurgeon's theology (which I will do in a future post), let us first do two things. First, let us remind ourselves that Spurgeon was more Calvinist than most Calvinists. He was a staunch five-point Calvinists and believed it to be pure doctrine. Spurgeon himself famously said:
The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. (source)More quotes could be sited by Spurgeon in his defense of Calvinism. Any half-decent book on him will make this clear. It is often difficult to read Spurgeon without hearing his Calvinism. Spurgeon, we could say, was baptist in his ecclesiology and Reformed in his soteriology.
Secondly, we should allow tensions in theology. Spurgeon illustrates this well in his own ministry. Read the final paragraphs of any sermon of Spurgeo, and you will find a man that pleads for the sinner to repent and respond to the gospel call in a way we would (stereotypically) expect an Arminian minister would. Spurgeon did not see a contradiction in being Reformed and calling on sinners to repent.
As it is relates to Spurgeon's view on regenation and new birth, the Prince of Preachers clearly held to the doctrine commonly referred to as "Irresistible Grace." Steve Lawson quotes Spurgeon as saying:
Difficulty is not a word to be found in the dictionary of heaven. Nothing can be impossible with God. The swearing reprobate, whose mouth is blackened with profanity, whose heart is a very hell, and his life like the reeking flames of the bottomless pit—such a man, if the Lord but looks on him and makes bare His arm of irresistible grace, shall yet praise God and bless His name and live to His honor.’ In short, no human heart is so obstinate that the Spirit cannot conquer and convert it. (source)I mention this because irresistible grace and regeneration-before-faith are often closely tied together. So to suggest that he did not hold to regeneration before faith does not, at least to Spurgeon himself, contradict his Calvinism.
Finally, let us look at some of the resources for the above question before moving forward. First, the often-used quote above is taken from his sermon "The Warrent of Faith," which can be assessed here. Secondly, Spurgeon preached a sermon called "Faith and Regeneration" which can be assessed here. See also his sermons "Regeneration," "The Necessity of Regeneration," "The Work of the Holy Spirit," as well as his comments on John 3:7 on his morning devotion for March 6. These resources (and no doubt we could add more), will be beneficial to our study.