24 October 2005

Spurgeon on substitutionary atonement

Spurgeonfrom chapter 12, "The Minister in These Times"
in An All-Round Ministry

Spurgeon responds to men in his day who thought the doctrine of penal substitution wasn't genteel or sophisticated enough.

Those who set aside the atonement as a satisfaction for sin also murder the doctrine of justification by faith. They must do so. There is a common element which is the essence of both doctrines; so that, if you deny the one, you destroy the other.

Modern thought is nothing but an attempt to bring back the legal system of salvation by works. Our battle is the same as that which Luther fought at the Reformation. If you go to the very ground and root of it, grace is taken away, and human merit is substituted. The gracious act of God in pardoning sin is excluded, and human effort is made all in all, both for past sin and future hope. Every man is now to set up as his own savior, and the atonement is shelved as a pious fraud.

I will not foul my mouth with the unworthy phrases which have been used in reference to the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ; but it is a sore grief of heart to note how these evil things are tolerated by men whom we respect.

We shall not cease, dear brethren, in our ministry, most definitely and decidedly to preach the atoning sacrifice; and I will tell you why I shall be sure to do so. I have not personally a shadow of a hope of salvation from any other quarter: I am lost if Jesus be not my Substitute. I have been driven up into a corner by a pressing sense of my own personal sin, and have been made to despair of ever doing or being such that God can accept me in myself.

I must have a righteousness, perfect and Divine; yet it is beyond my own power to create. I find it in Christ: I read that it will become mine by faith, and by faith I take it. My conscience tells me that I must render to God's justice a recompense for the dishonor that I have done to His law, and I cannot find anything which bears the semblance of such a recompense till I look to Christ Jesus. Do I not remember when I first looked to Him, and was lightened? Do I not remember how often I have gone as a sinner to my Savior's feet, and looked anew at His wounds, and believed over again unto eternal life, feeling the old joy repeated by the deed?

Brethren, I cannot preach anything else, for I know nothing else. New dogmas may or may not be true; but of the truth of this doctrine, I am sure.

If anybody here is preaching the atonement, but does not like it, I dare not advise him to cease preaching it, but the words tremble on my lips. I am firmly persuaded that the unwilling or cold-hearted preacher of any doctrine is its worst enemy. It comes to this, in the long run, that the wounds of truth in the house of its false friends are worse than those given it by foes. If you do not love the cross in your heart's core, you had better let it alone. I can truly say that I preach the atonement con amore, with all my heart.

Some seem to think that we poor souls, who are of the Puritanic school, are "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined" by harsh dogmas, from which we would gladly escape. They imagine that we have to check every rising aspiration of our nobler selves, so as to preserve the tyranny of a certain iron system. John Calvin is supposed to ride us like a nightmare, and we lead dogs' lives under his lash.

Brethren, it is far otherwise. Little do these slanderers know of our happiness and peace. If they feel more joy in preaching than we do, their felicity is great; but, from their tone and style, I should greatly question it. Observers will have noticed that the joyous element has gone out of many pulpits. The preacher does not enjoy his own subject, and seldom speaks of having been in the Spirit while he was discoursing. He likes twenty minutes' preaching a great deal better than forty; and he is peculiarly apt to merge his two week-night services into one.

Nobody enjoys modern doctrine, for there is nothing to enjoy. The people have to do their best with that soup of which our friend spoke last night so admirably,—the soup made from a borrowed bone, which had been lent out for a similar purpose on six previous days, so that the flavor of meat no longer remained upon it.

No, my brothers; let our opponents dismiss from their minds all pity for our enslaved condition under the old gospel. We are the free men, whom the Lord makes free, and all are slaves besides.

I would like to rise from my bed, during the last five minutes of my life, to bear witness to the Divine sacrifice and the sin-atoning blood. I would then repeat those words which speak the truth of substitution most positively, even should I shock my hearers; for how could I regret that, as in Heaven my first words would be to ascribe my salvation to my Master's blood, my last act on earth was to shock His enemies by a testimony to the same fact?

C. H. Spurgeon

Phil's signature


Chris Meirose said...

I think next year you could grow a burly beard and go to costume parties as Spurgeon. Spurgeon is so timeless. Love the way it makes me think.

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

Paul said...

A timeless truth that needs to be proclaimed.


mark pierson said...

Thank you so much for sharing Spurgeon with us today.


Steve said...

Upon his deathbed, Spurgeon insisted that only the letters "C.H.S." be inscribed upon his tomb. But those nearest to him knew of his unceasing passion for proclaiming Christ's substitutionary atonement, and thus could not help but place these words from his favorite hymn upon his tomb:

E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.

(From William Cowper's "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood"--though the lines in stanza 4 appear in a different order than they do here, this is the order in which they appear on Spurgeon's tombstone.)

Randy said...

It's amazing how truth proclaimed is relevant for all times. That could have easily been written for the events of today. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I don't think you can read 2 Corinthians 5 and not beleive that Paul taught that Christ is our substitute. But it seems that some have.

C.Stephen said...

Love it. There is no good news without the atonement.

marc said...

Two things:

1. Isn't it strange how you can substitue the word "postmodern" for "modern" in just about anything Spurgeon wrote and it still applies?

2. mrclm said:
I think next year you could grow a burly beard and go to costume parties as Spurgeon"

Check this out: S.A.B.

Kim said...

I am firmly persuaded that the unwilling or cold-hearted preacher of any doctrine is its worst enemy.

Now there's something to ponder over.

Brad Huston said...


Thank you for this article, very timely for me personally. Hey, is it just me or does this picture of Mr. Spurgeon look striking similar to William Petersen who plays Gil Grissom on CSI? Spooky.


AR said...

"Modern thought is nothing but an attempt to bring back the legal system of salvation by works. Our battle is the same as that which Luther fought at the Reformation. If you go to the very ground and root of it, grace is taken away, and human merit is substituted."

I think that this drive to take away grace and substitue human merit finds more subtle expressions, even among the professed friends of orthodoxy today.

Certainly unbelievers still laugh outright at the form and substance of these two doctrines which Spurgeon wrote about.

However, some people uphold the doctrine of Justification By Faith, but define faith in such a way that it leaves them some act of their own unaided will to hang on to. It betrays an almost frantic urge among many of the theologically informed (who undersand enough to know what is at stake) to make faith itself another human work. The only acceptable human work, certainly, but a human work nevertheless.

Thus Justification By Faith, which Paul makes the champion of Salvation By Grace, is used by Christians today to cage and shackle grace.

It's amazing to me how desperate people are to limit God's prerogative to do us good without our permission. This self-destructive drive within human hearts is a primary Sign of the fall.

Bhedr said...

Great Post! That is such a good book. I have it here on my desk. I understand he liked Calvin and that you do to and thats fine. Spurgeon took all that the reformers wrote and whatever understanding they had, measured it with Scripture and formed and wrote a Masterpiece. You are often left to wonder Who wrote it. He took that masterpiece and blew a trumpet with incredible sound and melody. He was indeed an insrument of God.

Unlike some of the reformers...you are never left to wonder where he truly stood.

pilgrim said...

I always appreciate Spurgeon and this is a very important topic.

While believers may disagree on the details, how can you not see substitionary atinement in the Bible?
It's so plain, so obvious. From Adam & Eve to the end of Revelation, God's Word proclaims it.

marsh said...

This is a terrific addition to the current conversation about "distasteful doctrines." Thanks, Phil. Sounds like your ability to swallow balut and other exotic cuisine (which I noted in your bio link) has proved a virtue in theological sustenance as well.

Sharad Yadav said...

Leon Morris has a masterful defense of substitutionary atonement against those who saw it as "barbaric" and "primitive". Speaking of Leon Morris, check this out.