“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834. He died at the age of 57 on January 31, 1882 after a remarkable ministry that continues into the 21 century by the power of the printed word. His conversion to Christ came on January 6, 1850, shortly before his sixteenth birthday. It was a cold wintry day when the Spirit of God warmed his heart in a little Primitive Methodist Chapel with the good news that if he but looked to the Lord, he would be saved. The text a layman preached from was Isaiah 45:22. ““Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
Spurgeon never forgot how the unknown speaker that day said in plain words, “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” said the preacher, in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ The text says, ‘Look unto Me.'”
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. 0 poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”
By the power and grace of the Spirit of God, young Spurgeon looked to Jesus, and lived. In his maturity, Spurgeon never forgot that he owed his exposure to the gospel to the unknown speaker in an Arminian chapel.
In time, Spurgeon’s own understanding of salvation, grace, faith, and regeneration would be rooted in that system of theology known as Calvinism. But he always had respect for those of a different theology persuasion who loved Jesus sincerely and exalted the Bible.
Even during The Downgrade Controversy of March, 1887, when Christian orthodoxy was being questioned, Spurgeon refused to insult other Baptist brethren by naming individuals personally. Spurgeon was alarmed that some ministers in the Baptist Union were “giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith.” However, Spurgeon did not shame, or insult people in public, or in private, but called upon those who downgraded the gospel to repent. Nor did he refuse to meet with those with whom he disagreed.
Having been subject to much slander and ridicule, Charles Spurgeon knew the destructive power of the tongue. The Biblical command for Christians is to “let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
Mr. Spurgeon practiced what he preached, and taught pastoral students by his example. In his book, Lectures to My Students, Mr. Spurgeon was very kind to Charles Finney (Aug 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875), a prominent Arminian with whom he disagreed with theologically. Said Spurgeon,
“Exhortations, entreaties, and beseechings, if not accompanied with sound instruction, are like firing off powder without shot. You may shout, and weep, and plead, but you cannot lead men to believe what they have not heard, nor to receive a truth which has never been set before them. “Because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge.”
While giving instruction it is wise to appeal to the understanding. True religion is as logical as if it were not emotional. I am not an admirer of the peculiar views of Mr. Finney, but I have no doubt that he was useful to many; and his power lay in his use of clear arguments. Many who knew his fame were greatly disappointed at first hearing him, because he used few beauties of speech and was as calm and dry as a book of Euclid; but he was exactly adapted to a certain order of minds, and they were convinced and convicted by his forcible reasoning. Should not persons of an argumentative cast of mind be provided for? We are to be all things to all men, and to these men we must become argumentative and push them into a corner with plain deductions and necessary inferences. Of carnal reasoning we would have none, but of fair, honest pondering, considering, judging, and arguing the more the better” (“On Conversion As Our Aim”, page 185).
Charles Spurgeon was a man of great grace. He never forgot that his first true understanding of the gospel came, humanly speaking, from the lips of an Arminian lay-preacher empowered by the Holy Spirit. Many Calvinist owe their initial exposure to the gospel to an Arminian ministry. It is highly unlikely that Spurgeon would ever refuse to greet or meet, in public or in private, someone he spoke kindly about and esteemed in the work of the Lord. It would be out of character for him.
D. L. Moody was also of a different persuasion than Mr. Spurgeon. Moody was a famous Arminian minister of the gospel, theologically, and yet Moody preached from Spurgeon’s pulpit, and was well received at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Let us be as generous as Paul who said, “What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). Let us be as kind in our comments as Mr. Spurgeon, and as careful in our conversation as the Holy Spirit commands us to be.