Friday, February 17, 2006

Spurgeon on Invitations, Decisions, and Public Responses

By attributing the following quote to Charles Spurgeon and admitting that I'm reading Iain Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon, I realize that I am forfeiting a wealth of guessable quotes for our recurring game. Oh well. I simply think the weight and insight of Spurgeon's words are too incisive to the state of today's Baptist churches and para-church ministries to make any kind of game out of it. Concerning the subtly manipulative strategies of public response-oriented decisionism that became popular in the 1890s, Murray reports that Spurgeon writes:
The gospel is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." If we think we shall do more good by substituting another exhortation for the gospel command, we shall find ourselves landed in serious difficulties. If, for a moment, our improvements seem to produce a larger result than the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be the growth of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees of the Lord.
An All-Round Ministry, p. 376
Murray also says that a recurring warning in Spurgeon's later sermons was that "God has not appointed salvation by enquiry-rooms."

6 comments:

Ryan Martin said...

I have heard that Spurgeon had a special place for the unregenerate to sit in his servies. I am for some reason to drawn to this idea. What do you think?

Joel said...

I was not asked, but a special place for Ryan to sit at might not be a bad idea.

Frank Sansone said...

Paleo,

I like Murray (and my Spurgeon bis are boxed up), but this seems to me to be once again an example of his pushing of his own agenda in his writings. While I might not have a problem with his agenda, per se, I have found that he tends to emphasize every thing he finds in support of his agenda (e.g. anti-revivalism, Calvinism, etc.) in an inordinate way in his writing.

The context of that quote has absolutely nothing to do with response-oriented decisionism, but with a watered-down Gospel.

An All-Round Ministry happens to be one of my favorite books (and one that is actually still currently unpacked).

The context of that quote (starting at the beginning of the paragraph) is below:

Some, I doubt not, have tinkered up Christ's teachings, and Christ's gospel, from a desire to do more good. Things are allowed to be said and done at revivals which nobody could defend. Do you notice, at the present moment, the way the gospel is put? I am uttering no criticism upon anyone in particular, but I continually read the exhortation, "Give your heart to Christ." The exhortation is good, but do not suffer it to cover over the gospel word: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." In the Sunday-school, the teaching often is, "Dear children, love Jesus." Now, this is not the gospel. The love of Jesus comes as a fruit, but the gospel is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." If we think that we shall do more good by substituing another exhortation for the gospel command, we shall find ourselves landed in serious difficulties. If, for a moment, our improvements seem to produce a larger result tahn the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be the growth of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees of the Lord."

The issue upon which Spurgeon is commenting on in this paragraph (it starts at the bottom of page 375) is not "manipulative strategies of public response-oriented decisionism" but rather the watering down and imprecise proclamation of the Gospel.

Ben said...

Frank,

I appreciate your contribution of the context. I don't really disagree with your analysis except that I believe the dilution and distortion of the gospel to which Spurgeon refers has a very direct connection to decisionistic revivalism. When he says, "Things are allowed to be said and done at revivals which nobody could defend," to what is he referring if not manipulative presentations of a downgraded gospel in an attempt to provoke a public response?

Just a few minutes ago I pulled this book off a seminary library shelf and read several pages of the context. I'm even more convinced now that Murray's reading of Spurgeon is correct. If you don't like my articulation of it, blame me, not him. My original post was my expression of his analysis of the Spurgeon quote, not a direct quotation from him.

Ben said...

Ryan,

Sorry I missed your earlier question. Given the prevailing state of the modern Church, I think we already have a place like that. It's called the pews.

Ryan Martin said...

I love your pessimism.