Mar 14, 2012

Charles Spurgeon on Calvinism: Total Depravity

2 Min Read

Charles Spurgeon clearly understood that before an evangelist can communicate the good news of salvation, he first must convey the bad news of condemnation. The black velvet backdrop of man’s sin must be laid out before the sparkling diamond of God’s sovereign grace can be seen in its dazzling luster. This begins with the Bible’s teaching on Adam’s sin, which brought about death.

But Adam’s sin did not affect only himself. His fallen nature spread to the entire human race, and every part of every person is fatally plagued by spiritual death. Spurgeon wrote: “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.” He added: “The venom of sin is in the very fountain of our being; it has poisoned our heart. It is in the very marrow of our bones and is as natural to us as anything that belongs to us.” He believed that the entire person—mind, affections, and will—is polluted and poisoned by original sin.

The result, he said, is that “a very hell of corruption lies within the best saint.” Spurgeon recognized that sin lies deep within the souls of even the best of men. This inward corruption makes every man a savage beast: “There is no beast in wolf or lion or serpent that is so brutish as the beast in man.” All people are spiritually dead, unable to see, desire, or respond to the gospel message.

Regarding the will, Spurgeon said,

We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will will ever be constrained toward Christ.

By this statement, Spurgeon affirmed that the volitional capacity of sinful man is paralyzed, leaving him incapable of responding to the free offer of Christ.

Consequently, Spurgeon resisted the notion of human free will. He contended that such an idea elevates man to the place reserved for God alone: “Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God. It declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man.” Further, Spurgeon affirmed, “If God requires of the sinner, dead in sin, that he should take the first step, then he requires just that which renders salvation as impossible under the gospel as it was under the law, since man is as unable to believe as he is to obey.” Simply put, Spurgeon believed that no human will is entirely free. It is either a slave of sin or a slave of Christ, but never free.

For Spurgeon, this was where the message of the gospel begins. The saving message of grace starts with total depravity. Man is entirely corrupted by sin. He is spiritually dead and unable to save himself. He could not be more hopeless and helpless.

This article is part of the Charles Spurgeon on Calvinism collection.