Charles Spurgeon on Calvinism — Unconditional Election
In Steven Lawson’s latest book, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, Lawson argues that Charles Spurgeon’s fervent commitment to the doctrines of grace “sharpened” his “gospel focus.” So what exactly did Spurgeon believe about the five points of Calvinism? Using excerpts from The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, we’ll answer that question in what will be a five part series on the blog. Our prayer is that these truths will sharpen your gospel focus also.
Today we discover what Charles Spurgeon believed about the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
Charles Spurgeon tenaciously held to the doctrine of unconditional election. By necessity, this biblical truth flows from belief in human depravity. Because the will of man is utterly dead and cannot choose God, God must exercise His sovereign will to save. Out of the mass of fallen humanity, God made an eternal, distinguishing choice. Before the foundation of the world, He determined whom He would save. Spurgeon contended that were it not for God’s choice of His elect, none would be saved.
He that perishes chooses to perish; but he that is saved is saved because God has chosen to save him. —Spurgeon
Like all the doctrines that Spurgeon held, he believed this truth because he was convinced it is rooted and grounded in the Bible: “Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it.” In his sermon titled “Election,” preached on September 2, 1855, Spurgeon read many passages that unmistakably teach this doctrinal truth. Among the texts he cited and explained were Luke 18:7; John 15:16; 17:8–9; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29, 33; 9:11–13; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:26–29; Ephesians 1:14; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1–2; and 2 John 1. In this exposition, Spurgeon stated:
In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn cup; long ere the echoes awoke the solitudes; before the mountains were brought forth; and long ere the light flashed through the sky, God loved His chosen creatures. Before there was any created being—when the ether was not fanned by an angel’s wing, when space itself had not an existence, when there was nothing save God alone—even then, in that loneliness of Deity, and in that deep quiet and profundity, His bowels moved with love for His chosen. Their names were written on His heart, and then were they dear to His soul.
Spurgeon further asserted, “God from the beginning chose His people; when the unnavigated ether was yet unfanned by the wing of a single angel, when space was shoreless, or else unborn, when universal silence reigned, and not a voice or whisper shocked the solemnity of silence, when there was no being, and no motion, no time, and naught but God Himself, alone in His eternity.” In eternity past, God sovereignly set His affections on a particular people and predestined their salvation. Moreover, sovereign election, Spurgeon affirmed, was based not on divine foresight but on divine foreordination: “‘But,’ say others, ‘God elected them on the foresight of their faith.’ Now, God gives faith, therefore He could not have elected them on account of faith which He foresaw.”
Spurgeon further denied that election can be dismissed as the choice of nations rather than individuals. He declared:
It is the most miserable shift on earth to make out that God hath not chosen persons but nations… .If it were not just to choose a person, it would be far more unjust to choose a nation, since nations are but the union of multitudes of persons, and to chose a nation seems to be a more gigantic crime—if election be a crime—than to chose one person. Surely, to choose ten thousand would be considered to be worse than choosing one; to distinguish a whole nation from the rest of mankind, does seem to be a greater extravaganza in the acts of divine sovereignty than the election of one poor mortal, and leaving out another.
Because God’s sovereign election of individual sinners is clearly taught by Scripture, Spurgeon insisted that it must be preached: “God gave me this great book to preach from, and if He has put anything in it you think is not fit, go and complain to Him, not to me. I am simply His servant, and if His errand that I am to tell is objectionable, I cannot help it. Let me tell you, the reason why many of our churches are declining is just because this doctrine has not been preached.” Spurgeon recognized that a refusal to preach the truth of sovereign election is a hindrance to the growth of the church. Such preaching is necessary if sinful men are to receive the seed of the gospel.
Moreover, Spurgeon maintained that withholding this great truth is a grievous offense against God:
Some of you have never preached on election since you were ordained. “These things,” you say, “are offensive.” And so you would rather offend God than offend man. But you reply, “These things will not be practical.” I do think that the climax of all man’s blasphemy is centered in that utterance. Tell me that God put a thing in the Bible that I am not to preach! You are finding fault with my God. But you say, “It will be dangerous.” What! God’s truth dangerous? I should not like to stand in your shoes when you have to face your Maker on the day of judgment after such an utterance as that.
From a positive perspective, Spurgeon boldly declared that preaching unconditional election is evangelistic. He said, “I have never preached this doctrine without seeing conversions, and I believe I never shall.” When people asked him how he reconciled preaching election with extending the gospel, he asserted, “There is no need to reconcile them, for they have never yet quarreled with one another.” He was right. Divine sovereignty and gospel evangelism go hand in hand, the former preparing the way for and ensuring the success of the latter.
While all in heaven are there by God’s choice, Spurgeon said, those in hell are there by their own choice. He testified: “From the Word of God I gather that damnation is all of man, from top to bottom, and salvation is all of grace, from first to last. He that perishes chooses to perish; but he that is saved is saved because God has chosen to save him.” In other words, salvation is possible only when God’s will liberates the human will from its bondage.
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