I struggled deeply with my faith in Christ; I was just 24. I came to Christ at a very early age (when I was 3), and walked with Christ even at a young age. I led my first person to the Lord when I was 5, and learned what it was to be “in the ministry” from my dad who was an ordained Conservative Baptist pastor. I walked with the Lord all the way through high-school. Then I fell into a time of apathy and luke-warmness for Christ; this happened in the years just out of high-school (class of 92), and ended in Las Vegas (a long story). The Lord began to do a work in my heart, at around the age of 24 that I have not yet recovered from! A part of that work was to walk me through deep and dark valleys of what seemed like death. There was a sense that over-came me that seemed to make life without the reality of God, tangible; this was literally hell it seemed. This season (which lasted probably for about 6 years) was full of deep deep depression, and doubts of all kinds; including in God’s existence (even though I loved him), and about my salvation (even though I trusted him with my life). I communicate all of this simply to introduce a preacher whose writings and sermons served to comfort me (not so much intellectually, but spiritually). The man, The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon is one of those whom the Lord used to minister to my mind and heart during this time. Marc Cortez just turned me onto a movie about Charles Spurgeon’s life; I have only watched half of it thus far, and this half has been excellent! I commend it to you:
I plan on doing some posting on Suzanne McDonald’s reconstruction of election in the days to come, but until then (because I’m feeling a bit lazy), I thought I would provide an interesting and even unexpected quote from Charles Spurgeon (I’m stealing this quote from Phil Johnson at the Pyromaniacs). To set it up a bit, I say surprising because it is not what you would expect to hear coming from a 5 point Calvinist (but then again Spurgeon was his own kind of 5 point Calvinist). Here, Spurgeon is discussing the “problem of perseverance” that so often plagues the 5 point Calvinist of yester-year; Spurgeon finds an interesting remedy to overcoming this particular precisianist plague, here he goes:
I have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one which is indispensable to a believer’s life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage, and strangle prayer rather than assist it.
To say I will humble myself at such a time, and rejoice at such another season, is nearly as much an affectation as when the preacher wrote in the margin of his sermon, “Cry here,” “Smile here.” Why, if the man preached from his heart, he would be sure to cry in the right place, and to smile at a suitable moment; and when the spiritual life is sound, it produces prayer at the right time, and humiliation of soul and sacred joy spring forth spontaneously, apart from rules and vows.
The kind of religion which makes itself to order by the Almanack, and turns out its emotions like bricks from a machine, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.
Self-examination is a very great blessing, but I have known self-examination carried on in a most unbelieving, legal, and self-righteous manner; in fact, I have so carried it on myself. Time was when I used to think a vast deal more of marks, and signs, and evidences, for my own comfort, than I do now, for I find that I cannot be a match for the devil when I begin dealing in these things. I am obliged to go day by day with this cry,—
“I, the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.”
While I can believe the promise of God, because it is His promise, and because He is my God, and while I can trust my Saviour because He is God, and therefore mighty to save, all goes well with me; but I do find, when I begin questioning myself about this and that perplexity, thus taking my eye off Christ, that all the virtue of my life seems oozing out at every pore.
Any practice that detracts from faith is an evil practice, but especially that kind of self-examination which would take us away from the cross-foot, proceeds in a wrong direction. (quote stolen from here — it is taken from Spurgeon’s Autobiography)
Isn’t He always the remedy? I mean, Christ.
This is the first time I’ve ever heard of 5 point Spurgeonism, but it makes sense. I think it most adequately captures the “kind” of Calvinism forwarded by John MacArthur & co. (and now Paul Washer in the video).
“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.“
As much as I like Spurgeon, and I really really do, this is the problem with popular Calvinism; there is an inability to see a distinction between what they understand Calvinism to be, and what Scripture actually communicates. This is a typical problem for most Protestants; we have a hard time admitting we have interpretive tradition (the Roman Catholics have us beat on this point).
Consider the Lord’s pleading “in the days of his flesh” as a matter of fact. Do not dream of Him as though He were a phantom and of His prayers as if they were part of a mere show. He was a real man, and His prayers were as real as yours can be. Believe in Jesus as man. You would be upset with anyone who would diminish the glory of His Godhead, so do not yourself take away from Him the truth of His humanity. He was in very deed made flesh and dwelt among us. This was the case even when His apostles beheld His glory, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We must get a firm grip of the true humanity or else we lose the sacrificial death, the resurrection, and all the rest; and the brotherhood of our Lord, which is a grand source of consolation, also disappears. Remember that He who sits at the right hand of God was once here in the likeness of sinful flesh. He who shall shortly come to judge the quick and the dead passed through a period of limitation, suffering weariness, since He was in human flesh. He knew poverty, sickness, reproach, and temptation. Inasmuch as He has passed through such days as these, He is able to be the High Priest of believers, who also are passing through the days of their flesh. We know too well that we are partakers of flesh and blood, and it is no small comfort that our Lord took part of the same.
–Charles Spurgeon, ed. Lance Wubbels, “The Power of Christ’s Tears,” 47-8