"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 1, Number 4, April, 1998
"Let us labour to have humility of spirit, that that may grow up with us in all our performances, that all things that we speak and do may savour of a spirit of humility, that we may seek the glory of God in all things more than our own.
And let us commit the fame and credit of what we are or do to God. He will take care of that. Let us take care to be and to do as we should, and then for noise and report, let it be for good or ill as God will send it. We know ofttimes it falls out that that which is precious in man's eyes is abominable in God's. If we seek to be in the mouths of men, to dwell in the talk and speech of men, God will abhor us, and at the hour of death it will not comfort us what men speak or know of us, but sound comfort must be from our own conscience and the judgment of God. Therefore, let us labour to be good in secret. Christians should be as minerals, rich in the depth of the earth. That which is least seen is his riches. We should have our treasures deep. For the discovery [i.e.revealing] of it we should be ready when we are called to it, and for all other accidental things, let them fall out as God in his wisdom sees good. So let us look through good report and bad report to heaven; let us do the duties that are pleasing to God and our own conscience, and God will be careful enough to get us applause. Was it not sufficient for Abel, that though there was no great notice taken what faith he had, and how good a man he was, yet that God knew it and discovered [revealed] it? God sees the sincerity and truth of our hearts, and the graces of our inward man, he sees all these, and he values us by these, as he did Abel.
As for outward things there may be a great deal of deceit in them. As much reputation as is fit for a man will follow him in being and doing what he should. God will look to that. Therefore we should not set up sails to our own meditations, that unless we be carried with the wind of applause, to be becalmed and not go a whit forward; but we should be carried with the Spirit of God and with a holy desire to serve God, and our brethren, and to do all the good we can, and never care for the speeches of the world, as St. Paul saith of himself: 'I care not what ye judge of me, I care not what the world judgeth, I care not for man's judgment,' I Corinthians iv:3.
This is man's day. We should, from the example of Christ, labour to subdue this infirmity which we are sick of naturally. Christ concealed himself till he saw a fitter time. We shall have glory enough, and be known enough to devils, to angels, and men ere long. Therefore, as Christ lived a hidden life, that is, he was not known what he was, that so he might work our salvation, so let us be content to be hidden men. A true Christian is hidden to the world till the time of manifestation comes. When the time came, Christ then gloriously discovered [revealed] what he was; so we shall be discovered what we are. In the mean time, let us do our duty that [we] may please the Spirit of God, and satisfy our conscience, and leave all the rest to God." Richard Sibbes, "A Description of Christ," THE WORKS OF RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635), vol. I, pp. 30-31. Banner of Truth Trust edition, 1973.
"There will be a resurrection of credits as well as of bodies. We'll have glory enough by and by." Ibid, "Memoir of Richard Sibbes," p. 24
"Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee's touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian, &c." >From Thomas Brooks (1608-1680), "Precious Remedies agaisnt Satan's Devices," 'A word to the reader,' in THE WORKS OF THOMAS BROOKS, vol. I, p. 8 (Banner of Truth Trust edition, 1980. 6 volumes).
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Thank you for your As I See It articles. I enjoy reading them as they provoke much thought. So much of Christian writing today entertains and does not exercise the mind nor strengthen the spirit. May the Lord bless you with continued insight that serves to challenge the rest of us in our walk in the Lord.
Love in Christ,
In presuming to introduce the reader to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, I approach the subject with fear and trembling. First, hopefully, many of the readers already have some acquaintance with Mr. Spurgeon and his writings. It is a challenge to give these readers something new.
Second, the subject is so vast as to be beyond my capacity to do complete justice to it. Mr. Spurgeon has been called the greatest preacher since Paul, an opinion that I do not think can be successfully refuted. Then, too, the amount of material by or about Spurgeon constitutes a good-sized library in and of itself--about 3,500 published sermons in 63 volumes, nearly 30 years of the monthly magazine "The Sword and the Trowel," a 7-volume commentary on Psalms, dozens of other books on various subjects, and more than two dozen biographies about Spurgeon, some of them in multiple volumes. To these could be added several biographies about relatives and close associates, plus books on 19th century Baptist history--enough material to completely occupy the reader for the better part of a decade. I have not, of course, read all of this or even a very large fraction of it, but I have been much interested in Mr. Spurgeon for more than 20 years and have read more by and about him than I have of any other writer.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born in June, 1834, in Essex in England. He was the oldest child (of seventeen) born into a dissenting pastor's home. Converted on a snowy Sunday morning at age 15 in a Primitive Methodist chapel in January, 1850, he soon became a Baptist through studying the Bible's teaching on baptism. Not long afterward, he became active in preaching in country homes, and, at the age of 17, became pastor of a small congregation in Waterbeach. God's blessings were experienced continually through the two years of this ministry.
Then, at 19, young Spurgeon supplied the pulpit in the New Park Street chapel, a South London congregation with a long and sometimes glorious past, but which of late had fallen on hard times. In its long history, the church witnessed the long ministries of Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon, plus others less well-known. The pastorless congregation extended to Mr. Spurgeon an invitation to preach for six months with a view to a possible call, but well before the trial period was up, a permanent call was extended. He continued in this pastorate (which later was known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle), until his death on January 31, 1892.
The church grew from about 80 at his first service to regular crowds of over 5,000--all without buses or turning the church into a circus. So great were the crowds wanting to hear Spurgeon that once each quarter, the members of the church were asked to attend other churches on a given Sunday evening so that there would be more room for the lost--and the place would still be filled to capacity. On one occasion, in a public meeting hall, Spurgeon spoke (without microphones or amplification) to 24,000 by actual turnstile count!
Besides the pulpit ministry, Spurgeon began a college for men entering the ministry, founded several orphanages, supported numerous missionaries, sent out evangelists, started numerous chapels, and accomplished other works almost without number--to say nothing of his writing. The extent of his labors would have exhausted 10 ordinary men, yet he was but one man. Of course he had numerous assistants and subordinates, but he took an active part in all these ministries. He even personally answered the several hundred letters he received each week (shame on the the pastor who fails to answer the two or three letters he gets in a week!). Spurgeon's lifelong hero was George Whitefield and anyone who has carefully studied the lives of both men can readily see striking similarities.
Though not college trained, Spurgeon made up for this lack of formal training by being a very diligent student who applied himself continually to his studies. His personal library numbered some 12,000 volumes, the remains of which (about 5,000 books) are now housed in the library at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, just north of Kansas City. Spurgeon's favorite authors were the Puritans, and he would spend almost any amount to acquire a rare old Puritan book.
More biographies have been written about Charles H. Spurgeon than about any other Baptist, maybe more than about any other two or three Baptists put together. I personally own 25, and know about at least half a dozen more. The AUTOBIOGRAPHY, originally in 4 volumes (reprinted in full by Pilgrim Publications, and in a two-volume abridgement by The Banner of Truth Trust) deserves a careful, thoughtful reading. Of the other biographies of Spurgeon which I have read, the best are C. H. SPURGEON by W. Y. Fullerton (1920) a co-laborer with Charlie, and SPURGEON by Arnold Dallimore (1984; containing the best account of Spurgeon and the questions of ale-drinking and cigar-smoking). Also valuable because they contain much eye-witness, first-hand information about Spurgeon are C. H. SPURGEON; AN INTERPRETATIVE BIOGRAPHY by J. C. Carlisle (1933) and PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON by W. Williams (1895). Other volumes of some merit are THE SHADOW OF THE BROAD BRIM by Richard Ellsworth Day (1934) and SPURGEON: HEIR OF THE PURITANS by Ernest W. Bacon (1967). Two other recently published biographies which I have not yet had time to complete but which are certainly of great value are SPURGEON: THE PRINCE OF PREACHERS by Lewis Drummond (1992) and THE LIFE & WORK OF CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON by G. Holden Pike (another of Spurgeon's co-laborers) in 6 volumes (1894; reprinted in full by Banner of Truth Trust, 1991). Bob Ross has compiled A PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY OF C. H. SPURGEON (1974) which gives a succint overview of Spurgeon's life. Eric Hayden, among the numerous volumes relating to Spurgeon which he has written, has prepared HIGHLIGHTS IN THE LIFE OF C. H. SPURGEON (1990) which gives one- to two-page summaries of the events year- by-year in the London ministry of Spurgeon.
Of books on related subjects, Eric Hayden's A HISTORY OF SPURGEON'S TABERNACLE (1971) has much of merit and Craig Skinner's biography of Spurgeon's son Thomas, THE LAMPLIGHTER AND HIS SON (1984) is first-rate.
As noted previously, Spurgeon's writings would easily fill a quite large bookcase. From 1855 until his death in 1892, he published a sermon weekly. Those published from 1892 until 1917 were sermons he had preached and edited, but which were left in manuscript form at the time of his death and had never been published. I understand that an additional 500 or so never-published Spurgeon sermons still exist in manuscript. He edited almost 30 years of a monthly magazine, always with contributions of his own, from 1865 to 1892.
He labored for 20 years on his seven-volume commentary on Psalms, THE TREASURY OF DAVID, in which he gives his own exposition plus the compiled best comments of a multitude of authors. There is no parading of knowledge on Spurgeon's part, but if you know Hebrew, you soon discover that he did too. Usually Spurgeon's comments far excel in quality those compiled from others.
Other books by Spurgeon include several books of illustrations, a number of daily devotion books, books of sermons and addresses not included in the sermon set, a number of books on practical Christian matters, plus much more. Happily, nearly all are in print, chiefly by Pilgrim Publications of Pasadena, Texas, though numerous other publishers also have Spurgeon material in print. In fact, it is credibly asserted that more publishers currently publish Spurgeon than any other Christian writer living or dead, and that more titles by Spurgeon are currently in print than any other Christian writer--and this over a century after his death!
My own favorite Spurgeon books are 1. LECTURES TO MY STUDENTS, Friday afternoon addresses to the students at the Pastors' College on the nuts and bolts of the ministry, a volume of the utmost value, which Cyril Barber states deserves a careful reading once each year by every preacher; 2. AN ALL-ROUND MINISTRY, twelve addresses delivered to the annual Pastors' College conference which just overflows with sound advice for preachers; 3. JOHN PLOUGHMAN'S TALK, homey discussions on very practical matters of Christian conduct; 4. COMMENTING AND COMMENTARIES, Spurgeon's own evaluations (many highly entertaining) of over 3,000 commentaries on the Bible, accompanied by two lectures, one on expository preaching and the other on famous commentary sets; 5. THE DOWNGRADE CONTROVERSY, really extracts from "The Sword and the Trowel" in the late 1880s, when Spurgeon withdrew from the British Baptist Union because of the rising tide of modernism within that body and its departure from biblical inerrancy. This book deserves a place next to Harold Lindsell's higly important volumes THE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE and THE BIBLE IN THE BALANCE; 6. THE SAINT AND HIS SAVIOUR, two chapters of which, "Jesus Hiding Himself," and "Causes of Apparent Desertion," were a balm to my own soul in some of the darkest days in my own life. 7. THE TREASURY OF DAVID; and 8. the 63-volume sermon set. Using the complete text and title index available from Pilgrim Publications, you have virtually a complete sermonic commentary on the whole Bible. In fact, a number of preachers make it a point somewhere in their sermon preparation to see what Mr. Spurgeon did with their text. My own favorite of all the Spurgeon sermons I have read is his sermon at the dedication of the Tabernacle on March 25, 1861, based on Acts 5:42. I've read it at least four times, and have preached it--somewhat altered--several times. It is found in the 1861 volume of sermons, pp. 169-176.
In theology, Spurgeon was a self-declared Calvinist, though not after the manner of Gill or the hardshells. When he preached on "whosoever will" texts, he was accused by some of his Calvinistic friends of having fallen into Arminianism. Spurgeon's sermon on I Timothy 2:4 puts the matter in clear light. Spurgeon played all 88 keys on his theological piano; he did not bang away on just five endlessly repeated ones. We call that "balance." In our day, the views of Spurgeon are very often distorted to fit the theology of the one speaking or writing about Spurgeon. Iain Murray does this with reference to Spurgeon's Calvinism, which wasn't rigid enough for Murray's taste, in his little book, THE FORGOTTEN SPURGEON. A remedy for such cheap trickery is available in two books by Eric Hayden, SEARCHLIGHT ON SPURGEON: SPURGEON SPEAKS FOR HIMSELF (1973), and THE UNFORGETTABLE SPURGEON (1997), which compile Spurgeon's opinions as expressed in his own words, taken respectively from the sermon set, and from "The Sword and the Trowel." For a corrective of the distortions of Spurgeon's views on Bible texts and translations, see my own "An Answer to David Otis Fuller" (1988). Say not "Spurgeon believed so-and-so," until you have first-hand knowledge of what he actually believed, either directly from your own extensive personal reading of Spurgeon, or at least by familiarity with Hayden's books which are a good and accurate introduction.
Spurgeon was, of course, an inerrantist from first to last and stood when others waffled, at great cost to himself personally. He was a strict creationist, strongly opposing evolution. He was a pre-millennialist, but eschatology was largely a matter of indifference to him and he criticized those who spoke so much of the Second Coming of Christ that they neglected the First Coming and all that it accomplished.
In his interpretation of Scripture he had a tendency to over- spiritualize much of the Old Testament, after the manner of the Puritans (e.g., Matthew Henry) and occasionally finds distinctively New Testament truth in the Old Testament. Lamentations 1:12, for example, is interpreted as a reference to the crucifixion, while it is in context nothing of the sort, but rather a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Spurgeon's influence in his own day was incredible. People from all stations in life, high and low, including Prime Ministers and even Queen Victoria incognito, came to hear him preach. And no trip to England by an American Christian was complete without attending the services at Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle. He saw literally thousands of real conversions under his preaching and tens of thousands through his published works.
His influence in our day has hardly lessened, if it has not actually grown. His writings still affect thousands of preachers, and through them, their congregations. An accurate count of the number of sermons "stolen" from Spurgeon and preached by others (including myself) would be astronomical.
The teacher who counseled his students, "Sell your shirt and buy Spurgeon," did not mislead them. I would only add, "and read what you buy." A complete set of Spurgeon's works will profit us nothing if the books are merely put on display in our libraries like so many museum pieces--pretty but useless. (I knew one Bible college professor and former pastor who had all of Spurgeon's sermon volumes--still sealed in the plastic the way they came from the publisher!) No, they must be much used. And to read of his life will be of little value unless we resolve under God to follow him as he followed Christ.
In life, everybody has "heroes" of some kind at one time or another. Heroes are people we admire for some quality or ability they possess (or seem to possess). They become our pattern. We try to be like them in appearance, in actions, in attitudes.
Usually, it is some single something about a hero that attracts our attention. When I was 9 or 10, I admired and idolized Warren Spahn. He was a left-handed pitcher (for the Milwaukee Braves), as was I. He was "the greatest" and that's what I wanted to be. I collected baseball cards with him on them. When we picked numbers for our new uniforms, I chose "21," Spahn's number. I knew nothing about Warren Spahn personally (except that he was kind of ugly). Was he honest? Was he moral? Did he pay his debts? I didn't know then, and I don't know now. All I knew was that he could really pitch (and hit well, too), and at 10 years of age, that was all that mattered to me. My reasons for choosing him as a hero were very limited, and potentially very dangerous.
I also idolized Mickey Mantle: he could switch hit like nobody else. All I knew about him was his "public" image and his athletic ability. What if I had tried to imitate not just his hitting but also his lifestyle, too?
In reality, many, many people of great athletic achievements are people of very defective character. Babe Ruth was a glutton, drunkard, and profuse adulterer. Ty Cobb was a man of bitter spirit and intense hatreds. Pete Rose was a man consumed by adultery and gambling. These men all achieved extraordinary things athletically, but eventually their abilities faded, and they were like ordinary men. There was nothing in them then worth admiring.
Besides athletes, the group of people most chosen as heroes are entertainers, especially actors. When it comes to actors as heroes, most people idolize an actor because they admire a character the actor portrayed in some film. But the actor is NOT the person you see on the screen. He is only pretending to be him. None of it is real. In reality, most actors have the same kind of flaws that athletes have: immorality, drunkenness or drug use, along with other grave character defects. They are not worthy patterns for anyone's life. When I was in high school, one of my movie heroes was Clint Eastwood. In his early Westerns, he played a cowboy who always had little cigars held in the corner of his mouth. I tried to imitate him and smoke little cigars. I became very sick and puked violently.
The proper kind of person to choose as a "hero" is someone of real achievement combined with real character. Abilities fade. Achievements soon become "ancient history," but character, real character of the right kind never fades. Consistency and faithfulness over many years are rare but important qualities.
In my field of expertise--the Bible--my heroes have been Noel Smith, Charles Spurgeon, John Broadus, and A. T. Robertson, names that you scarcely know or perhaps have never heard of. But they were dedicated, devoted, studious, and sincere men of God. All were excellent writers as well as accomplished teachers and speakers, and that is what I wish to be.
We must recognize that all human "heroes" will disappoint us from time to time, even as we ourselves disappoint others. Be ready always to follow their good conduct and avoid the mistakes they have made. Admire them at their best, and become a better man under their influence.
I am pleased that you have chosen as admirable men the likes of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Nathan Bedford Forrest. I would also recommend to you Robert E. Lee (whose role model was George Washington), Stonewall Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln. None of them was perfect, it is true. All had faults and defects. But they had great excellencies that were not based on fading abilities, and a person who imitated them in all things would not go very far astray from the path of right conduct.
In your studies, you will learn of other worthy men, no doubt some that I have never heard of. Be cautious about whom you choose to emulate. It can affect your life profoundly.
In order to state clearly its position on the current controversy regarding the dispute raging among fundamentalist Baptists about which original language Bible texts and which English Bible translations are best, the faculty of Central Baptist Theological Seminary produced this informative volume. There is no waffling or uncertain sound. Consistent with Central's 40+ year fundamentalist history, these professors all adhere to the absolute inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible in the original manuscripts, while at the same time pointedly rejecting the modern notion that any Bible translation (the KJV in particular among them) can be perfect, infallible or inerrant. Likewise, the claim that the textus receptus and the Masoretic text are absolutely perfect reproductions of the autographs in every detail is rejected simply because this view is not supported by the facts of history or of the manuscripts. While these printed editions of the OT in Hebrew and the NT are not seriously corrupt, the evidence is overwhelming and irresistible that in some details they do not precisely reproduce the original Scriptures and therefore must be revised on the basis of manuscript evidence to bring them into closer conformity with the original Scriptures.
Various English Bible versions and various translation methodologies are examined as well, and the use of multiple English versions (though not indiscriminate use of just any versions) is commended as a sound practice. While the KJV is used at Central, it is not used exclusively, and other Bible versions are also employed.
Central has never been "KJV-only"/"Textus receptus-only." As clear proof of this fact, the book begins with two ca. 1968 quotes by Seminary founder Richard V. Clearwaters on the question of Bible translations: "Honesty compels us to cite the 1901 American Revised as the best English Version of the original languages which places us in a position 290 years ahead of those who are still weighing the King James of 1611 for demerits....We know of no Fundamentalists...that claim the King James Version as the best English translation. Those in the main stream of Fundamentalism all claim the American Revised of 1901 as the best English translation." (THE GREAT CONSERVATIVE BAPTIST COMPROMISE, pp. 192, 199).
It is refreshing to discover at least one Fundamentalist school that has stood its historic theological ground and has refused to bend to the whims of the latest theological breezes. At Central, at least, the word is out: they will not yield to this recent and wholly false doctrine of an infallible King James Version, and likewise will not confine themselves to the use of printed Hebrew and Greek texts (namely Bomberg's and Erasmus') which in some particulars do not precisely conform to the infallible originals.