Spurgeon – Gospel Invitations

Iain H. Murray, in his book Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism, underlines the contemporary relevance of Spurgeon’s sermons resulting from his „serious and prolonged doctrinal controversy with Hyper-Calvinism” (quote from publisher’s note). During this same time Spurgeon was also battling Arminian doctrine.  Spurgeon’s personal debates with his contemporaries and the sermons they produced were never more needed than in times such as ours (an era that produced the preaching of the prosperity gospel and the cliche’ -„Be saved with this little sinner’s prayer”, etc).  In his book Murray addresses 4 reasons why Spurgeon rejected Hyper-Calvinism. They had to do with differing views on 1)Universal Gospel Invitations 2)Warrant of Faith 3)Human Responsibility and 4)the Love of God.  In the process we will see Spurgeon’s response gleaned out of the Bible as to what the word of God says on these 4 points. This, as any of the other books authored from the pen of  Iain H. Murray, is an essential read and should be in every person’s library along with all of  Spurgeon’s works.

All emphasis (highlighting some sentences) below is mine.

Gospel Invitations are Universal

In this subchapter of Iain Murray’s book (p 69) Murray states:

Spurgeon believed that historical evangelicalism differed from Hyper-Calvinism over the persons to whom the promises of the gospel are to be preached. Hyper-Calvinism views gospel preaching solely as a means for the ingathering of God’s elect. It argues that such words as, „Trust in Christ and you will be saved”, should only be addressed to elect sinners….and that…for a preacher to convey to his hearers the impression that they are all called to receive Christ, and to believe in him for salvation, is to deny, in the opinion of Hyper-Calvinists, the sovereignty of divine grace.

Spurgeon rejected the placing of such a restriction upon the invitation of the Gospel. The gospel is „good news” which God would have proclaimed throughout the world and to „every creature”. It’s message is not simply a statement of facts. It also contains clear,unrestricted, general promises, such as,”He that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:18); „Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”(Romans 10:13); Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). So the preacher has not done his work when he has spoken of Christ and proclaimed the historic facts of salvation. From there he must go on to urge the reception of Christ by all men.

On a side note here, sometimes I still run across the phrase „preach the gospel, if necessary use words”, a phrase that boggles the mind in light of the fact that proclamation can not ensue from silence and the phrase comes „wrongly” from folks adhering to a belief of faith based on works. Spurgeon notes that even just telling someone the historical gospel is not enough. In order to proclaim the gospel we must also urge the reception of Christ by all people.

And if we experience reticence when proclaiming the gospel to an unsaved person (read here- someone committing abhorrent sins, Spurgeon continues to exhort:

In the name of God he (preacher,person proclaiming the gospel) must assure all of the certainty of their welcome and forgiveness on their repentance and faith.

For this he cites Paul preaching in Antioch – Acts 13:38-39, to paraphrase, „all that believe are justified” and Colossians 1:28, „and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”.

Iain Murray then describes the Hyper-Calvinist argument against gospel invitations because their belief is that grace is special and particular (intended for the elect) to which Spurgeon responded in one of his sermons entitled „Apostolic Exhortation” on the apostle Peter’s words to all his hearers from Acts 3:19,”Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out”. Spurgeon:

Peter preached the Christ of the Gospel – preached it personally and directly at the crowd who were gathered around him…Grown up among us is a school of men who say that they rightly preach the gospel to sinners when they merely deliver statements of what the gospel is, and the result of dying unsaved, but they grow furious and talk of unsoundness if any venture to say to the sinner, „Believe”, or „Repent”. To this school Peter did not belong.

In another sermon Spurgeon refers to the brethren who „do not think it to be their duty to go into the highways and the hedges and bid all, as many as they find, to come to the supper. Oh no! They are too orthodox to obey the Master’s will; they desire to understand first who are appointed to come to the supper, and then they will invite them; that is to say, they will do what there is no necessity to do (i.e. present the gospel to those who are already saved).

In contrast with this, the apostles „delivered the gospel, the same gospel to the dead as to the living”, the same gospel to the non-elect as to the elect. The point of distinction is not in the gospel, but in its being applied by the Holy Ghost, or left to be rejected by man.

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