Thursday, July 9, 2015

Which Comes First New Birth or Faith: Thoughts on Spurgen - Part 3

Which Comes First New Birth or Faith: Thoughts on Spurgen - Part 1
Which Comes First New Birth or Faith: Thoughts on Spurgen - Part 2
Which Comes First New Birth or Faith: Thoughts on Spurgen - Part 3

In the previous two posts in this series we have responded to the following often-used Spurgeon quote from non-Calvinists:
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.
This quote is taken from The Warrant of Faith (preached on September 20, 1862; you can listen to it here) and in this isolated quote, it appears that Spurgeon contradicts the "I" in the Calvinist acronym T.U.L.I.P.  In light of this quote, we have explored the question did Spurgeon deny effectual call?

Before giving a final answer, let us consider more evidence. First in the sermon Regeneration the Prince of Preachers states:
And now we must say, that regeneration consists in this. God the Holy Spirit, in a supernatural manner—mark, by the word supernatural I mean just what it strictly means; supernatural, more than natural—works upon the hearts of men, and they by the operations of the divine Spirit become regenerate men; but without the Spirit they never can be regenerated. And unless God the Holy Spirit, who "worketh in us to will and to do," should operate upon the will and the conscience, regeneration is an absolute impossibility, and therefore so is salvation. "What!" says one, "do you mean to say that God absolutely interposes in the salvation of every man to make him regenerate?" I do indeed; in the salvation of every person there is an actual putting forth of the divine power, whereby the dead sinner is quickened, the unwilling sinner is made willing, the desperately hard sinner has his conscience made tender; and he who rejected God and despised Christ, is brought to cast himself down at the feet of Jesus. This is called fanatical doctrine, mayhap; that we can not help; it is scriptural doctrine, that is enough for us. "Except a man be born of the Spirit he can not see the kingdom of God; that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." If you like it not, quarrel with my Master, not with me; I do but simply declare his own revelation, that there must be in your heart something more than you can ever work there. There must be a divine operation; call it a miraculous operation, if you please; it is in some sense so. There must be a divine interposition, a divine working, a divine influence, or else, do what you may, without that you perish, and are undone; "for except a man be born again, be can not see the kingdom of God." The change is radical; it gives us new natures, makes us love what we hated and hate what we loved, sets us in a new road; makes our habits different, our thoughts different, makes us different in private, and different in public. So that being in Christ it is fulfilled: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."
Spurgeon is clearly teaching that regeneration precedes faith. The same is found in another sermon entitled The Necessity of Regeneration:
The Graces which appear at the very dawn of the Gospel in the heart are wholly above the reach of man. The Gospel says, “Repent.” The unregenerate man loves his sins and will not repent of them. He presses them to his bosom and until his nature is changed, he will never look upon them with abhorrence and sorrow. The Gospel says, “Believe; cast away all confidence in your own merits and believe in Jesus.” But the carnal mind is proud and it says, “Why should I believe and be saved by the works of another? I want to do something myself that I may have some of the credit for it, either by good feelings, or good prayers, or good works of some kind.” Repentance and faith a re distasteful to the unregenerate—they would sooner repeat a thousand formal prayers than shod a solitary tear of true repentance! They would sooner work their way to Heaven even if they had to pass through Hell itself to get there, than come and simply receive salvation for nothing as the gift of God by Jesus Christ. Brothers and Sisters we must be born-again because the Truth of the Gospel cannot be understood and the commands of the Gospel cannot be obeyed except where the Spirit of God works regeneration in the heart!
This is the language of a Calvinist that affirms (and preaches) irresistible grace. He is clearly teaching that the unconverted cannot see or hear the gospel in order to respond unless the Spirit regenerates the heart producing faith.

More evidence of the above can be presented. Consider also his sermons, Predestination and Calling and Effectual Calling which are direct defenses of this Calvinist doctrine (see also this article at Founders).


What are we to conclude then? First, it is intellectually dishonest for non-Calvinist to pull one quote out of volumes of Spurgeon's sermons and writings and proclaim that Spurgeon denied effectual calling. That is simply not true.

Secondly, we should not be surprised by the quote above. Spurgeon was an unapologetic Reformed Baptists whose sermon conclusions read like a Billy Graham crusade. Spurgeon begged his readers to embrace the gospel and to exercise faith. To Spurgeon (and to most Calvinists throughout history) the preacher must call on sinners to repent. To some, this is contradictory, but to Spurgeon this was fulfilling his calling as a minister of the gospel who affirmed the totality of Scripture.

In the end, this is another example of how one's biases can easily shape their reading of history. I first came across the above quote in an anti-Calvinst book. The sloppiness in which one would present Spurgeon as an argument against Calvinism is consistent with the books contents. If one does not hold to Reformed theology, that is fine. Certainly there are strong arguments against Calvinist soteriology. But in doing so, make good arguments; not sloppy ones.
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