History of the Church Meeting in the Metropolitan Tabernacle
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Though this was difficult work, they would have strong support from the various evangelistic societies and other college graduates. Over time, many of these preaching stations would begin to gather converts. Since these preaching stations were not yet churches and these converts needed to be baptized and join a local church, the next step was to bring them into membership at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. In most cases, this would mean taking converts through a typical membership process, including membership interviews, sending messengers, a full report given at a church meeting, a congregational vote, baptism, and a communion service.
But in cases where converts were coming from a distance, accommodations could be made, either in sending elders out for interviews or scheduling communion services at more convenient times. Once there were enough converts to form a church, they sent a letter to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, recounting the work that God has done in that area, expressing their desire to form a church, and asking for a dismissal from membership for that purpose.
This letter was read to the congregation at a church meeting, and they voted to approve the dismissals and appointed elders to help that group form a church of like faith and order. In the early years, the congregation at the Tabernacle would approve the gift of a communion service for many of the new churches. Once the churches were formed, they remained in connection with the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Letters were often exchanged by dismissing members to one another and reports were shared as to the progress of the work. Often Spurgeon helped fundraise on behalf of these churches and gave generously himself to build them a chapel. One of the earliest preaching stations was in an old meeting house in the Old Bailey, in the heart of London, led by a student of the college, Alfred Searle. Over the next six months, converts would join the Metropolitan Tabernacle so that by April 14, , the sixteen members from Old Bailey sent a letter recounting the work in their area and requesting dismissals so that they might form a new church.
The Minute Books from that congregational meeting read:. The Church gave a very heart response to this letter, rejoicing that God had been so gracious to the dear brethren, and unanimously agreed to their dismissal from our fellowship and formation into a distinct church as they desired. These answers being in every respect satisfactory, acknowledging that they held the doctrines of grace as set forth in the Baptist confession of faith, acknowledging also that the church order and discipline as established among us, were such as they purposed to adhere to, our pastor caused several of them to join together with the right hand of fellowship and pronounced them a distinct Church.
But what a loving reception did I have when I went to him. I thought he would smite me, but his hand was not clenched in anger but opened wide in mercy. I thought full sure that his eyes would dart lightning-flashes of wrath upon me; but, instead thereof, they were full of tears. He fell upon my neck and kissed me; he took off my rags and did clothe me with his righteousness, and caused my soul to sing aloud for joy; while in the house of my heart and in the house of his church there was music and dancing, because his son that he had lost was found, and he that was dead was made alive.
I exhort you, then, to look to Jesus Christ and to be lightened. Sinner, you will never regret it The trials of Christian life you shall find heavy, but you will find grace will make them light. And as for the joys and delights of being a child of God, if I lie this day you shall charge me with it in days to come. If you will taste and see that the Lord is good, I am not afraid but that you shall find that he is not only good, but better than human lips ever can describe. I know not what arguments to use with you.
I appeal to your own self-interests. Oh my poor friend, would it not be better for you to be reconciled to the God of. The crowd-drawing appeal of Spurgeon was mockingly compared to the attraction of flypaper in this caricature. What are you getting by opposing God? Are you the happier for being his enemy? Answer, pleasure-seeker: hast thou found delights in that cup?
Ah, my friend, "Wherefore dost thou spend thy money for that which is not bread, and thy labour for that which satisfieth not; hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Are you still cold and indifferent? Must I use some other compulsions to compel you to come in? Sinners, this one thing I arn resolved upon this morning, if you be not saved you shall be without excuse. Ye, from the grey-headed down to the tender age of childhood, if ye this day lay not hold on Christ, your blood shall be on your own head.
If there be power in man to bring his fellow, as there is when man is helped by the Holy Spirit that power shall be exercised this morning, God helping me. Come, I am not to be put off by your rebuffs: if my exhortation fails, I must come to something else. Do you know what it is you are rejecting this morning?
You are rejecting Christ, your only Savior. It is not long ere weary months shall have ended, and your strength begin to decline; your pulse shall fail you, your strength shall depart, and you and the grim monster-death, must face each other. Death-beds are stony things without the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is an awful thing to die anyhow; he that hath the best hope, and the most triumphant faith, finds that death is not a thing to laugh at. I cannot help thinking of you. I see you acting the suicide this morning, and I picture myself standing at your bedside and hearing your cries, and knowing that you are dying without hope. I cannot bear that. I think I am standing by your coffin now, and looking into your clay-cold face, and saying, "This man despised Christ and neglected the great salvation.
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You did not know what Paul meant when he said, 'As though God did beseech you by us we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. I picture myself standing at the bar of God I see you standing in the midst of that throng, and the eye of God is fixed on you. It seems to you that he is not looking anywhere else, but only upon you, and he summons you before him; and he reads your sins, and he cries, "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire in hell!
Do you see the pit as it opens to swallow you up? Do you listen to the shrieks and the yells of those who have preceded you to that eternal lake of torment? I should be destitute of all humanity if I should see a person about to poison himself, and did not dash away the cup; or if I saw another about to plunge from Lon-.
I cannot help it. I must do it. As I must stand before my Judge at last, I feel that I shall not make full proof of my ministry unless I entreat with many tears that ye would be saved, that ye would look unto Jesus Christ and receive his glorious salvation. But does not this avail? Then again I change my note. Sinner, I have pleaded with you as a man pleadeth with his friend, and were it for my own life I could not speak more earnestly this morning than I do speak concerning yours.
You shall not always have such warnings as these. A day is coming, when hushed shall be the voice of every gospel minister, at least for you; for your ear shall be cold in death. It shall not be anymore threatening; it shall be the fulfillment of the threatening. There shall be no promise, no proclamations of pardon and of mercy; no peacespeaking blood I charge you then, listen to this voice that now addresses your conscience; for if not, God shall speak to you in his wrath, and say unto you in his hot displeasure, "I called and ye refused; I stretched out my hand and no man regarded; therefore will I mock at your calamity; I will laugh when your fear cometh.
You imagine that your life will be long, but do you know how short it is? Have you ever tried to think how frail you are? Did you ever see a body when it has been cut in pieces by the anatomist? The slightest chance, as we have it, may send you swift to death, when God wills it. Strong men have been killed by the smallest and slightest accident, and so may you How often do we hear of men falling in our streets-rolling out of time into eternity, by some sudden stroke.
And are you sure that heart of your's is quite sound? Is the blood circulating with all accuracy? Are you quite sure of that? And if it be so, how long shall it be? Some out of this vast crowd, perhaps some two or three, shall depart ere the new year shall be ushered in. I remind you, then, my brother, that either the gate of salvation may be shut, or else you may be out of the place where the gate of mercy stands.
Come, then, let the threatening have power with you. I do not threaten because I would alarm without cause, but in hopes that a brother' s threatening may drive you to the place where God hath prepared the feast of the gospel.
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And now, must I turn hopelessly away? Have I exhausted all that I can say? No, I will come to you again. Tell me what it is, my brother, that keeps you from Christ. I hear one say, "Oh, sir, it is because I feel myself too guilty. The chief of sinners died and went to heaven many years ago; his name was Saul of Tarsus, afterwards called Paul the apostle You must, at least, be sec-. But suppose you are the worst, is not that the very reason why you should come to Christ.
The worse a man is, the more reason he should go to the hospital or physician. The more poor you are, the more reason you should accept the charity of another. Now, Christ does not want any merits of yours. He gives freely. The worse you are, the more welcome you are. But let me ask you a question: Do you think you will ever get better by stopping away from Christ? If so, you know very little as yet of the way of salvation at all. No, sir, the longer you stay the worse you will grow; your hope will grow weaker, your desire will become stronger; the nail with which Satan has fastened you down will be more firmly clenched, and you will be less hopeful.
Come, I beseech you, recollect there is nothing to be gained by delay, but by delay everything may be lost. Remember, I am not come to invite you to faith, but am come to invite you to Christ. Come, I beseech you, on Calvary's mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, he who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins. Look to him, is there not power in him to save? Look at his face so full of pity.
Is there not love in his heart to prove him willing to save? Sure sinner, the sight of Christ will help thee to believe. Do not believe first, and then go to Christ, or else thy faith will be a worthless thing; go to Christ without any faith, and cast thyself upon him, sink or swim. But I hear another cry, "Oh sir, you do not know how often I have been invited, how long I have rejected the Lord.
You may have rejected a thousand invitations; don't make this the thousandthand-one. You have been up to the house of God, and you have only been gospel hardened. But do I not see a tear in your eye; Come my brother don't be hardened by this morning's sermon. Oh, Spirit of the living God come and melt this heart for it has never been melted, and compel him to come in!
I cannot let you go on such idle excuses as that; if you have lived so many years slighting Christ, there are so many reasons why now you should not slight him. But did I hear you whisper that this was not a convenient time? Then what must I say to you? When will that convenient time come? Shall it come when you are in hell? Will that time be convenient? Shall it come when you are on your dying bed, and the death throttle is in your throat-shall it come then?
When pains are racking you, and you are on the borders of the tomb? No, sir, this morning is the convenient time. May God make it so.. You may never have so earnest a discourse addressed to you. You may not be pleaded with as I would plead with you now. You may go away, and God may say, "He is given unto idols, let him alone. Will you not now come to Christ? Then what more can I do? I have but one more resort, and that shall be tried. I can be permitted to weep for you; I can be allowed to pray for you.
You shall scorn the address if you like; you shall laugh at the preacher; you shall call him fanatic if. Your offence, so far as he is concerned, is forgiven before it is committed; but you will remember that the message that you are rejecting this morning is a message from one who loves you, and it is given to you also by the lips of one who loves you. You will recollect that you may play your soul away with the devil, that you may listlessly think it a matter of no importance; but there lives at least one who is in earnest about your soul, and one who before he came here, wrestled with his God for strength to preach to you, and who when he has gone from this place will not forget his hearers of this morning.
I say again, when words fail us we can give tears-for words and tears are the arms with which gospel ministers compel men to come in. Now does anything else remain to the minister besides weeping and prayer? Yes, there is one thing else. God has given to his servants not the power of regeneration, but he has given them something akin to it We can now appeal to the Spirit. I know I have preached the gospel, that I have preached it earnestly. I challenge my Master to honour his own promise. He has said it shall not return unto me void, and it shall not.
It is in his hands, not mine. I cannot compel you, but thou 0 Spirit of God who hast the key of the heart, thou canst compel. Did you ever notice in that chapter of the Revelation, where it says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock," a few verses before, the same person is described, as he who hath the key of David. Now if the knocking of an earnest minister prevail not with you this morning, there remains still that secret opening of the heart by the Spirit so that you shall be compelled. I thought it my duty to labour with you as thought I must do it; now I throw it into my Master's hands.
It cannot be his will that we should travail in birth, and yet not bring forth spiritual children. It is with him; he is master of the heart, and the day shall declare it, that some of you constrained by sovereign grace have become the willing captives of the all-conquering Jesus, and have bowed your hearts to him through the sermon of this morning.
Spurgeon responded that if his critics only knew how much humor he suppressed, they would keep silent. At the same time, Spurgeon's life was saturated with suffering. We know about his sufferings intimately owing to his frequent and candid descriptions of them. What torments did Spurgeon suffer? How did he reconcile his painful experiences with his view of a gracious God? Spiritual agonies At the risk of oversimplifying, we can categorize Spurgeon's sufferings as spiritual, emotional, and physicalalthough recognizing the interplay of categories.
Spurgeon's spiritual suffering began most markedly five years prior to his conversion. Throughout his ministry, he referred to the horrors he had felt. I prayed, but found no answer of peace. It was long with me thus. These spiritual sufferings taught him to loathe the foulness of sin and to cherish the holiness of God.
And they engendered within him a seraphic joy in his salvation. Slander and scorn During his early years in London, Spurgeon received intense slander and scorn. In he could look back at those years and say, "If I am able to say in very truth, 'I was buried with Christ thirty years ago,' I must surely be dead.
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Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, 'He stinketh. At the time, however, Spurgeon wavered between rejoicing in such persecution and being utterly crushed by it. In he wrestled with his feelings: "Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken; This thing I hope I can say from my heart: If to be made as the mire of the streets again, if to be the laughing stock of fools and the song of the.
The weight of preaching From the beginning of his ministry, Spurgeon attracted vast audiences in such establishments as Exeter Hall and the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall. While to all appearances he brimmed with self-assurance, in reality he was filled with trepidation. In he remarked, "My deacons know well enough how, when I first preached in Exeter Hall, there was scarcely ever an occasion, in which they left me alone for ten minutes before the service, but they would find me in a most fearful state of sickness, produced by that tremendous thought of my solemn responsibility.
This remained a hearty source of spiritual suffering throughout his career.
He remarked in "I have preached the gospel now these thirty years and more, and.. Emotional trial by "Fire! I may be called to stand where the thunderclouds brew, where the lightnings play, and tempestuous winds are howling on the mountain top. Well, then, I am born to prove the power and majesty of our God; amidst dangers he will inspire me with courage; amidst toils he will make me strong We shall be gathered together tonight where an unprecedented mass of people will assemble, perhaps from idle curiosity, to hear God' s Word; and the voice cries in my ears, 'Prove me now.
See what God can do, just when a cloud is falling on the head of him whom God has raised up to preach to you. The service was underway when, during Spurgeon's prayer, several malicious. The galleries are giving way! Spurgeon, totally undone, was literally carried from the pulpit and taken to a friend's house where he remained for several days in deep depression.
Later he remarked, "Perhaps never soul went so near the burning furnace of insanity, and yet came away unharmed. Yet until Spurgeon's death, the spectre of the calamity so brooded over him that a close friend and biographer surmised: "I cannot but think, from what I saw, that his comparatively early death might be in some measure due to the furnace of mental suffering he endured on and after that fearful night.
Depression If Spurgeon was acquainted with depression before, following the Surrey Hall disaster, it became a more frequent and perverse companion. In October he had his first episode of incapacitating illness since coming to. The Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall, a popular amusement hall that Spurgeon's congregation rented when they had outgrown their building and had not completed a new one.
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On Sunday night, October 19, , Spurgeon's first service there was interrupted by false probably premeditated cries of "Fire! Spurgeon, only 22 years old, was so distressed he was unable to preach for several weeks and later said the experience was "sufficient to shatter my reason" and might have meant his ministry "was silenced for ever.
Having been absent from his pulpit for three Sundays, when he returned he preached on 1 Peter "Wherein ye greatly rejoice though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. I was so distressed by the hearing of that story, and felt so ashamed of myself. Despite this, Spurgeon thought of his own depression as his "worst feature" and once commented that "despondency is not a virtue; I believe it is a vice. I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into it, but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God.
It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary. He once remarked: "No one living knows the toil and care I have to bear. I ask for no sympathy but ask indulgence if I sometimes forget something. I have to look. During his first significant illness October Spurgeon wrote to his congregation and readers: "Do not attribute this illness to my having laboured too hard for my Master. For his dear sake, I would that I may yet be able to labour more. Did you ever try to turn, and find yourself quite helpless?
And frequently behind the entrenchments of taking care of our constitution, we do not half as much as we ought. A minister of God is bound to spurn the suggestions of ignoble ease, it is his calling to labour; and if he destroys his constitution, I, for one, only thank God that he permits us the high privilege of so making ourselves living sacrifices. Gout The disease that most severely afflicted Spurgeon was gout, a condition that sometimes produces exquisite pain. What can clearly be identified as. For the remainder of his life he would be laid aside for weeks or even months nearly every year with various illnesses.
Space does not permit even an abridged chronicling of his physical sufferings. Some appreciation of them comes from this article in The Sword and the Trowel in "It is a great mercy to be able to change sides when lying in bed. Did you ever lie a week on one side? Did others lift you, and by their kindness reveal to you the miserable fact that they must lift you back again at once into the old position, for bad as it was, it was preferable to any other?
It is a great mercy to get one hour's sleep at night. What a mercy have I felt to have only one knee tortured at a time. What a blessing to be able to put the foot on the ground again, if only for a minute! I could not bear to see my child suffer as thou makest me suffer, and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him, and put my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt thou hide thy face from me, my Father?
Wilt thou still lay on a heavy hand, and not give me a smile from thy countenance? Spurgeon was seldom free from pain from on. The intervals between times of forced rest became increasingly shorter, and his condition became more complex as symptoms of Bright's disease chronic inflammation of the kidneys began to develop.
Susannah Spurgeon, with twin sons Charles left and Thomas, at about the time she began experiencing periods of invalidism. Like her husband, she found ways to be amazingly productive despite her illnesses. For example, she founded and operated a book fund that distributed countless theological works to pastors who could not afford to buy them.
Spurgeon's last years of physical suffering must be seen through the grid of the Down-Grade Controversy. Early in this controversy he commented that he had "suffered the loss of friendships and reputation, and the infliction of pecuniary withdrawments and bitter reproach But the pain it has cost me none can measure. This fight is killing me. Where is God during suffering? Spurgeon maintained that since God is sovereign, there are no such things as accidents. This, however, is not fatalism: "Fate is blind; providence has eyes.
In a sermon published in he maintained, "In itself pain will sanctify no man: it may even tend to wrap him up within himself, and make him morose, peevish, selfish; but when God blesses it, then it will have a most salutary effect-a suppling, softening influence. I have been there, and my sermons with me, and my frames and feelings, and all my good works. They seemed to quite fill the pot till the fire burned up, and then I looked to see what there was unconsumed; and if it had not been that I had a simple faith in my Lord Jesus Christ, I am afraid I should not have found anything left.
The result of melting is that we arrive at a true valuation of things [and] we are poured out into a new and better fashion. And, oh, we may almost wish for the melting-pot if we may but get rid of the dross, if we may but be pure, if we. He candidly admits that he dreaded suffering and would do whatever he legitimately could do to avoid it. Yet when not suffering acutely, he longed for it. I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny.
But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister's library. On June 7, , in extreme physical pain from his illnesses, Spurgeon preached what, unknown to him, proved to be his last sermon. His concluding words in the pulpit were, as usual, about his Lord: "He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill.
The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These forty years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him.
His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Darrel W. Amundsen is professor of classics at Western Washington University and coeditor of Caring and Curing Macmillan , Baptized at Isleham Ferry. Joins Baptist church in Cambridge. Becomes pastor at Waterbeach Chapel in Cambridge. Congregation approximately members. First service at Exeter Hall.
Works with first ministerial student. Twin sons Charles and Thomas born. Indian mutiny. Moody attends services for first time. Ground breaking for Stockwell Orphanage boys' side. Wife Susannah becomes an invalid. Civil War.
Gladstone becomes Prime Minister until Suez Canal opens. He insisted on thinking through his theology for himselfand often found himself out of step with his age. Taking over ideas he had not sifted and mastered was foreign to him. When Spurgeon reached unconventional conclusions, he did not shrink from implementing them, even when this was quite difficult.
Baptists had a long tradition of ordaining ministers, for example, but Spurgeon managed to get his church to omit this step--he never was ordained. He campaigned arduously to do without the customary title, Reverend, and he eventually succeeded in replacing it with Pastor. Features of his theology Spurgeon considered his objections to ordination and the title Reverend as being scripturally based, a constant feature of his theology.
As he put it, "I like to read my Bible so as never to have to blink when I approach a text. I like to have a theology which enables me to read [the Bible] right through from beginning to end, and to say, 'I am as pleased with that text as I am with the other. In the late s he tried to dovetail biblical teaching on human responsibility with his doctrine of election.
By he became convinced it couldn't be done; something had to yield. Since both doctrines were woven. Instead, he sacrificed the possibility of a thoroughly systematic theology. Spurgeon expressed his approach in a forthright introduction to a sermon on election no. It is time that we had done with the old and rusty systems that have so long curbed the freeness of religious.
Baptists had a long tradition of ordaining ministers, but Spurgeon never was ordazned. It is time that the systems were broken up, and that there was sufficient grace in all our hearts to believe everything taught in God's Word, whether it was taught by either of these men or not. If God teaches it, it is enough.
If it is not in the Word, away with it! Away with it! But if it be in the Word,. Some years later Spurgeon said, "Angels may, perhaps, be systematic divines; for men it should be enough to follow the Word of God, let its teachings wind as they may. Some of his early published sermons, including Number 1 on the immutability of God, show a philosophical approach. But this disappeared by along with his attempts to systematize his theology , leaving the field free for his profound spiritual experience to find deeper expression. William Robertson Nicoll, an influential Nonconformist newspaper editor who knew Spurgeon's sermons about as well as anyone, perceptively bracketed Spurgeon with John Bunyan as the two greatest evangelical mystics.
Many of the finest passages in Spurgeon's sermons draw on spiritual exploration into God's mysteries that his theological mind was unable to map. Robertson Nicoll quoted a memorable example from an sermon on "The Three Hours' Darkness": "This darkness tells us that the Passion is a great mystery into which we cannot pry. I try to explain it as a substitution, and I feel that where the language of Scripture is explicit, I may and must be explicit too. It was wrought in darkness because the full, far-reaching meaning and result cannot be beheld of finite mind. Tell me it was a wondrous obedience to the will of God-I can see that and much more.
Tell me it was the bearing of what ought to have been borne by myriads of sinners of the human race as the chastisement of their sin-I can see that, and found my best hope upon it. But do not tell me that this is all that is in the Cross. No, great as this would be, there is much more in the Redeemer's death. God veiled the Cross in darkness, and in darkness much of its deep meaning lies, not because God would not reveal it, but because we have not capacity to discern it all.
Coming to Calvinism What was the content of that theology? It is well known that Spurgeon was a Calvinist. He stood out from the contemporary trend toward abandoning and often denouncing Calvinism. IssuE In fact, Spurgeon gave his Calvinism a high profile. When his great, new Metropolitan Tabernacle opened in , a series of sermons was preached on the "five points of Calvinism"-human depravity, election, particular redemption, effectual calling, and final perseverance. What is not widely known, however, is that Spurgeon's Calvinism was adopted rather than inherited.
He came by it some months after his conversion. As Spurgeon told the story a few years later: "Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit and did not see the grace of God. I remember sitting one day in the house of God and hearing a sermon as dry as possible, and as worthless as all such sermons are, when a thought struck my mind-How came I to be converted? I prayed, thought I. Then I thought, How came I to pray?
I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? Why-I did read them; and what led me to that? And then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of all, and that he was the author of faith. And then the whole doctrine opened up to me, from which I have not departed.
Two pages from Spurgeon's study Bible, showing the many cross-references and notations he made as he studied. Development in his thinking It is difficult, however, to trace much development in Spurgeon's theology. Spurgeon shared the common conservative view that "there is nothing new in theology save that which is false. The most change one can observe in his weekly published sermons is that he overcame, by , his early hesitancy about inviting everyone, without distinction, to respond to the gospel. The reason for Spurgeon's stability was that he found in the Puritans' theology ample material to help him fashion his own-although his own Bible study was always his main resource.
A fast reader with extraordinary powers of retention, Spurgeon devoured vast quantities of verbose Puritan theology while still a teenager. Partly because of. In the Puritans' writings, Spurgeon found three things he thought were in short supply in contemporary evangelicalism: rigorous theology, warm spirituality, and down-to-earth practicality. Topics he tended to avoid Spurgeon's opinion on the practical relevance of a subject largely determined the amount of attention he devoted to it.
Most doctrines passed his "practicality test," and Spurgeon's study in his "Westwood" estate. The walls are lined by some of the estimated 12, volumes he owned, many from the doctrines of atone- Puritan writers. Spurgeon began reading Puritan theology when he was a boy, and it influenced him throughout his life. But the areas he tended to avoid reveal as much as anythat entire branch of theological literaatonement in language as imperiously thing about his theology.
In that, he was probably wise, for ethical as any used by its attackers: "I Eschatology, for example, fared badhe was not really equipped for that batcannot help holding that there must be ly. Spurgeon was not a complete an atonement before there can be parstriking since many evangelicals at the theologian; though his mind had many don, because my conscience demands time were preoccupied with the docstrengths, it was relatively weak in logit, and my peace depends on it. The little court within my own heart is not trine.
During the vast majority of Spuric and analysis. His Out of sympathy with his age initial postmillennial views gave way As a theologian, then, Spurgeon was Ultimately, however, in the DownGrade controversy [see article on page to premillennialism early on, but he in many ways out of sympathy with his was wary of prophetic passages that age. He protested its widespread adop31], Spurgeon issued a massive protest tion of liberalism. And his Puritan-inacted as a magnet to others.
He never against liberalism. The crucial point at felt able to endorse any of the specific spired Calvinism stood at variance which Spurgeon's path diverged from the liberals' was not philosophical, with contemporary evangelicalism. But in several important respects, Nor did Spurgeon participate in the methodological, critical, or ethical.
It holiness movements popular among Spurgeon was representative of his was spiritual. Nourished by his profound submisists most completely influenced by the He had a strong doctrine of sanctificasion to Scripture, Spurgeon deeply apRomantic movement. The hallmarks preciated God's transcendent holiness, tion, but he was quite scathing about are plainly discernible in him: a desire perfectionism: "Though they persuade the vast gulf separating it from man's for reality, life, and spirituality; an imthemselves that their sins are dead, it is sinfulness, and the atonement that.
He had a truly their sins are only keeping out of the guidance by moral imperatives issued three-dimensional theology. He held a straightforhow God could justly remove people's sin. He had the same difficulty underward doctrine of biblical infallibility; he had no time for the higher criticism standing the righteousness of atonespreading from Germany. Instead of ment as did the contemporary pioneers of liberalism. Later on, howattempting to fight the critics on their Mark Hopkins is lecturer in church history at ground, however, he steered clear of ever, Spurgeon defended objective Theological College of Northern Nigeria.
Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying th e in sp iration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith. Controversy developed, Spurgeon became the focal point of the charges, and the Baptist Union, which was bitterly divided over the question, ultimately voted to censure him.
Explaining the tangled affa ir is Dr. It was also the severest cr isis ever faced by the Baptist Union, the body to which Spurgeon belonged. He saw that liberalism would grow and prevail for a while to come, and he was not so naive as to suppose that it cou ld be stopped by resolutions. Again, he was not trying to engineer a schism and start an evangelica l union: the idea did not appeal to him , and he did not think this could be a permanent solution. Lacking a positive program of any kind , Spurgeon had just two things in mind: 1 to warn against the rise of liberalism he was more concerned about Congregationalism, in which it had taken deeper root, than abo ut hi s own denomination ; and 2 having thus satisfied his conscience, toretreat into the private world of his church and associated enterprises, which kept him more than busy and fulfilled.
First cover of The Sword and the Trowel, the monthly magazine founded by Spurgeon in In the flurry of cha rges, none of the principal players cared to expose key information that lay hidden from public view. However, some important missing pieces of the jigsaw have turned up recently. It is now possible to sketch the story more accurate ly. Why did Spurgeon start it? Spurgeon lau nched the controversy, and so the first question must be,.
In , in his magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon deli vered a wide-ranging but superficia l cr itique. Hi s message was that Nonconformi sts were on a slippery slope away from biblical doctr ine and standards of behavior. Three doctrines, Spurgeon said, were being abandoned: biblical infallibi li ty, substitutionary atonement, and the finality of judgment for those who died outs ide Christ. His passionate and outspoken language helped arouse attention.
But perhaps the decisive factor in provoking an extensive debate was Spurgeon's unfavorable co mpar ison between Nonconformity [Protestant dissenters such as the Presbyterians, Congregatio nali sts, and Baptists] and the Church of England. This was a potent bait, and when the Baptist Union met in October, the " Down Grade" was the main topic of conversation. Yet fear of troub ling the theological waters kept the subject off the officia l program-Baptist leaders hoped the debate would fizz le out. The few references that were made dismissed Spurgeon, and he felt it time for the more congenia l part of his plan: he resigned from the Baptist Union.
The controversy: Phase 2 If Spurgeon had had his way, the controversy would have ended at that point; but he was not to be let off so easi ly. When Spurgeon resign ed, the controversy narrowed into an intraBaptist dispute, but its intens ity re-. The Council of the Baptist Union met in December to deliberate on the cris is.
Spurgeon's hard-line opponents, incensed by the damage Spurgeon had done to the Union's standing, poured cold water on Spurgeon's claims to have done all he could to combat the evils he was lamenting before resigning. They hoped their next goal-to get Spurgeon to withdraw his charges or furnish evidence against named individuals-could be achieved in a meeting with a delegation from the Union. These uncompromising opponents formed an unlikely alliance with a well-intentioned but unrealistic group that thought all might be settled if only the two sides would talk.
Together the two groups passed a resolution appointing a delegation to confer with Spurgeon on " How the unity of our Denomination in truth, love, and good works may best be maintained. He carefully negotiated the meeting's terms to rule out any discussion of his previous actions. The meeting would simply discuss what the Union might do to put its house in order. Spurgeon was stunned, then , when his charges and resignation were brought up at the meeting held on January 13, Following this coup de main, the Council passed a resolution known as the "vote of censure," which said that since Spurgeon declined to give names and supporting evidence, the Council considered that his charges ought not to have been made.
Spurgeon felt bitterly betrayed. The deepening cycle of confrontation was broken when Spurgeon dissuaded his supporters from trying to reverse the vote of censure, and when a more severe censure motion was defeated in the February Council meeting. The Council passed a resolution that had the delicate double aim of vindicating the evangelical ere-.
Meanwhile, supporters of Spurgeon's protest, as surprised and shocked by his resignation as were his critics, finally began to make an impact under the leadership of Spurgeon's brother James. A few had resigned and joined their leader on the sidelines, but the majority campaigned for the adoption of doctrinal declarations that would restore the Baptist Union to an unequivocally evangelical allegiance.
Spurgeon supported them , not because he had become more optimistic about the prospects for success, but because he thought it only right that they should attempt to do something about the "Down Grade" before resigning, just as he had done earlier. At a Council meeting just before the Annual Assembly, efforts were made to bridge the gap between two sets of doctrinal declarations, one more evangelical than the other. Negotiations were finally successful just five minutes before the crucial session was due to open on the afternoon of April 23, Delegates and spectators, who had expected to witness the rending of the Baptist denomination, were astonished to learn that James Spurgeon would be seconding an amended resolution.
It was a strange scene: the proposer had no time to rewrite his fighting speech, and James Spurgeon's contribution was suffused by doubt as to. Spurgeon depicted as Great-heart, the character from Pilgrim's Progress who conquered the Giant Grim. Unfortunately, in the true-to-life Down-Grade Controversy, Spurgeon did not emerge unscathed. During the controversy his health deteriorated, so that his wife, Susannah, wrote following his death that "his fight for the faith Indeed, the last-minute concessions he gained amounted to little; he was outmaneuvered.
Had the vote taken place, what would the result have been? Both factions had slates of candidates for the Council elections that took place on the same day; the results of these would indicate support for Spurgeon in the region of 25 to 30 percent. Spurgeon was devastated when he learned what had happened. A dark shadow was cast over his last few years. The Baptist Union's supporters could be relieved by the reprieve, but beyond that they had little cause for satisfaction.
The basic problem with the DownGrade Controversy was that the central theological issues were never really addressed. And Spurgeon, who had generated more heat than light, was partly to blame. Children Spurgeon did more than preach. An urban underclass was growing rapidly. Within this context evangelical Christians struggled'. Spurgeon declared that he and his congregation were determined "to show our love of truth by truthful love.
Orphans show off their skimmer hats and cricket bats in front of the boys' homes at the Stockwell Orphanage. Headmaster Vernon Charlesworth is in the center. A new enterprise The summer of found Spurgeon looking for a new work in which to engage. Concerned about the advances of Tractarianism [a High-Church movement within the Church of England], he wanted to establish a Christian school.
By the end of , four boys' houses had been opened at Stockwell, followed during the s by five houses for girls. Located on the Clapham Road, south of the River Thames, the row of boys' houses faced a similar row of girls' houses across an area of lawns and. Both the boys' and girls' institutions aimed to provide for the "free and gratuitous residence, maintenance, clothing, instruction, and education of destitute, fatherless children.
At the laying of Stockwell's foundation stone in he declared, "On these occasions we do not meet either as Church [of England people or as Dissenters. When we aim to help orphans or to take care of the poor, we Ia y aside all that. In his later years, as theological liberalism and Christian socialism arose, Spurgeon increasingly put forward the orphanage as a testimony to opponents of the gospel. Are any of the new theologians doing more than those of the old orthodox faith? What does their Socialism amount to beyond words and theory?
At any rate, we care for both the bodies and souls of the poor, and try to show our love of truth by truthful love. Three goals for the orphanages The annual reports of the orphanage set forth three broad principles for the work. Need-based admission. The orphanage was to be open to all classes of the community, and patronage from subscribers holding votes was rejected. In this Spurgeon followed the pioneering example of George Muller of Bristol.
Nonsectarian admission. The Stockwell houses aimed to provide a kinder alternative to the Poor Law workhouses. Much emphasis was placed on locating children in "large families instead of massing them together on the workhouse system. Goals realized To what extent was Spurgeon successful in achieving these aims? The formal procedure for admitting children rested with a small committee acting on the report of a "messenger. And Spurgeon probably was justified in his frequent claims that children came from all social backgrounds. Farmer, railway worker, customs officer, accountant, clerk, waterman, cabbie, laborer, missionary, shopkeeper, and teacher were among the occupations of deceased fathers.
Children from very poor backgrounds, however, tended to be under-represented; and children with a record of ill health or delinquency were generally excluded because " the Institution is not a Hospital, or a Reformatory, or an Idiot Asylum. How far did Spurgeon translate this claim into action?
The chart below shows the number of children admitted to Stockwell between and , according to the religion of their fathers:. From what we know about religious observance during the period, candidates for Stockwell were slightly more likely to have a denominational tie than were others in society. Baptists were over-represented, and Roman Catholics were under-represented. There is no evidence that the trustees regarded this as a problem.
However, in general terms, Spurgeon's claim of avoiding discrimination is substantially justified by the facts. Goal unrealized However, perhaps the major criticism that can be brought against Stockwell is its failure to realize to any marked degree Spurgeon's aim of providing substitute family care. Influenced by Wichern's Rauhe Haus Ragged House in Hamburg, Spurgeon planned to provide units of no more than twelve children cared for by a married couple.
This combination of residential care and fostering never succeeded for various reasons. First, there was only a partial commitment to the model. The homes were not physically separate from one another, and single-sex homes were accepted as axiomatic. Children had few of the unspoken rights of childhood. For example, it was agreed by the trustees early in "that the boys take off their shoes before going upstairs. No boy to go upstairs between morning and night, unless sent up by the Matron.
Spurgeon surrounded by boys from ihe Stockwell Orphanage. The orphans came to services at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. At Christmas, Spurgeon bought each child a present. Second, there was never any serious attempt to keep the size of the homes as low as twelve.
The houses catered to an average of more than forty children, with only two caregivers. The trustees also failed to keep to their decision about staffing the homes, overturning their commitment to having married couples caring for the children. Part of the reason was that the system had been initially "forced upon the Trustees by financial circumstances," and economic reasons continued to dilute the plan's effectiveness.
Significantly, fostering was rejected because it was "impractical," not because it was undesirable. One man recalled his tears on arrival at Stockwell, and "the feeling of bewilderment and utter loneliness that came upon me when I stood within the great playhall.
Metropolitan Tabernacle - WikiVisually
How strange, too, and unlike anything I had ever known before, the dining room seemed, with its long tables, spread with row after row of mugs and slices of bread and butter; and the dormitories, neat, clean and comfortable, but so different to the little bedroom I had been accustomed to at home. In a garb which is a symbol of dependence it is difficult, if not impossible, for an orphan to preserve a feeling of selfrespect. In an illuminating entry in the Master's Report Book in , Vernon Charlesworth, the head of the establishment, wrote, "With regard to the dress of the children the president's wish has been regarded and we have striven to avoid the monotony of an institution badge.
As this illustrates, an ad hoc pattern of rule making dominated Stockwell's formative years and diluted the principles upon which the work was founded. Insights from the orphanages Spurgeon did not set out to innovate. He failed to develop a radical critique of contemporary orphanage practice. His opposition to the voting system a common practice in which an. Unlike George Muller, who was writing on this in the s, Spurgeon refused to press for its general abolition.
The fact that at least one of his deacons held votes for another orphanage must have influenced him at this point. Further, the trustees often showed themselves oddly out of touch. Charlesworth, with Spurgeon's backing, carried out a running battle with the trustees for a decent asphalt surface; the existing one was either black dust or semi-liquid paste according to the weather. An unknown trustee has added the almost incredible note in the margin of the Master's Report Book, "Master to use the blacking for Boys' boots!
However, the value of Spurgeon's initiatives should not be underestimated. His realization that social work carried out in the name of Christianity must be articulated with the doctrine of salvation was important at a time when liberal criticism was growing and evangelicalism was in decline. Spurgeon's insistence that admission should be on the basis of neednot limited by social background or religious allegiance-set an example that is ever relevant. Above all, Spurgeon's social ministries reveal the possibilities of powerful preaching. It was his preaching of the doctrines of grace that drew a congregation that could finance an operation of this scale almost single-handedly.
And in changed form, Spurgeon's Homes still provide a child-care service today. Portions of that material are used by permission of Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. The author also acknowledges his indebtedness to David Kingdon, who permitted him to draw upon his manuscript history of the Homes, and to those elderly former residents who originally recorded their impressions for David Kingdon. Shall the struggle for religious equality be protracted and embittered? Shall our National Debt be increased? First, he was protesting against the recent imperialistic ventures of a Conservative government; that was a stand for peace.
Second, he was calling for measures of change that would benefit the common people; that was a commitment to reform. Third, he was urging religious equality, the distinctive aim of Nonconformists. Fourth, he was demanding a decrease in wasteful public spending; that was a recommendation of retrenchment. If religious equality is left aside for the moment, Spurgeon's principles were peace, reform, and retrenchment.
Those were the three campaigning watchwords of the Liberal Party under W. Spurgeon could hardly have been closer to the heart of Liberalism. Although politically partisan statements occasior,ally crept into his sermons, they were always defensible as pronouncements on moral issues that had caught the public eye. Outside the pulpit, however, he was willing to express his party views without reserve. Spurgeon was a political force. Spurgeon's political alignment What was his party allegiance? Spurgeon was like almost all the English Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists of his day in supporting the Liberal Party.
These denominations-the chief Nonconformist bodies-were excluded from the privileges of the Church of England. Nonconformists naturally favored reforms to reduce their handicaps, and their reforming sympathies aligned them with the Liberals. No professional group was more likely to vote Liberal than Nonconformist ministers. That set Spurgeon and his colleagues in opposition to the other political force in nineteenth-century England, the Conservatives.
The role of the Conservatives was to defend existing institu-. Liberals, while not wanting to abolish any of them, wished to ensure that none of them exceeded their reasonable powers. Spurgeon supported what was often called "the party of progress. Adding the distinctive Nonconformist principle, religious equality, put Spurgeon on the more advanced wing of the party.
He was an outspoken champion of the disestablishment of the Church of England. Nonconformists, he insisted, must be allowed to enjoy all the advantages of Anglicans. They should be permitted, for example, to conduct their own burial services in parish graveyards. They should be able to take degrees at the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge. And the bond between church and state must be severed, as it had been in the United States. Spurgeon was for many years a prominent member of the Liberation Society, a pressure group aiming for disestablishment.
In fact, his church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, was regularly used for the society' s annual meeting. In he decided to discontinue his subscription. Religion was ultimately the determinant of Spurgeon's politics. Who should run the schools?