It is a well-known fact that “one of the most common charges raised against Calvinism as a theological perspective is that it is not conducive to fueling a long-term passion for missions and evangelism,” as Joel Beeke has observed.[1] But after a survey of John Calvin’s evangelism, including Calvin’s teachings and activities in this regard, Beeke concludes, “the truths of sovereign grace taught by Calvin, such as election, are precisely the doctrines that encourage missionary activity. Where biblical, Reformed truth is loved, appreciated, and rightly taught, evangelism and mission activity abound.”[2] This observation is further vindicated by the life, labors, and teachings of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), whose testimony shines as a paragon of Calvinistic evangelism.

Spurgeon’s success as a preacher has been widely recognized and admired. Hughes Oliphant Old, that meticulous surveyor of the history of homiletics, said, “There was no voice in the Victorian pulpit as resonant, no preacher as beloved by the people, no orator as prodigious as Charles Haddon Spurgeon.”[3] He is not alone in that assessment. The editor of Spurgeon’s works in 1857, for instance, commented, “The preaching of Mr. Spurgeon in London is one of the most remarkable phenomena of the present times. The loftiest and humblest minds, the rich and the poor, the titled and the lowly, in uncounted crowds . . . listen with rapture to his glowing words; hundreds are pricked to the heart, and God is honored in the conversion of sinners and the joy of his people.”[4] Multitudes—literally numerous thousands—testified to an evangelical experience of conversion traceable to an encounter with Spurgeon’s gospel preaching.

What was the reason for Spurgeon’s success? One scholar notes, “Various biographers have speculated as to the source of Spurgeon’s success. Some have considered the unique combination of his oratorical skills, his photographic memory, his great voice, his sharp mind.”[5] To be sure, Spurgeon’s unique giftedness fitted him for the work to which his Master called him; however, many a biographer fails to discern the supernatural reality that was at the heart of the Spurgeon phenomena. Oliphant Old is right: “too many have tried to locate the genius of the man in his techniques. That is not where it is to be found.”[6] Like Peter in Acts 2 who witnessed multitudes repent and believe the gospel upon the Holy Spirit’s pricking of their hearts, Spurgeon assessed that he was experiencing a revival, or the outpouring of the Spirit (to use the nomenclature of the older divines),[7] wrought by none other than the mighty power of God the Holy Spirit.[8] Heaven blessed his preaching because, not least of all, God was pleased with the content preached. “Spurgeon himself attributed the revival to the power of prayer and the proclamation of biblical truth, which to Spurgeon meant a sound Calvinistic doctrine,” we are told.[9]

According to this assessment, the Spirit of God was pleased to bless an evangelistic message steeped in the distinctives of Calvinism, especially the so-called five points: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. The Lord’s prospering of such preaching suggests that the doctrines of Calvinism, handled as they are by Spurgeon, are amicable to true evangelistic success, being conducive to the attainment and furtherance of it. Thus, Spurgeon exemplifies how the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace can be preached in an evangelistic manner, showing that these doctrines are not detrimental but rather conducive, if not indispensable, to the true work of evangelism.

This article will consider, first, what Spurgeon believed about Calvinism and the doctrines of grace; second, what he taught concerning the role of the doctrines of grace in evangelistic preaching; and third, characteristics of Spurgeon’s preaching of the doctrines of grace that offer valuable lessons for preachers today.

Spurgeon’s Confessional, Experiential Calvinism

It is no secret that Spurgeon was an unabashed Calvinist and thus expressly identified himself on many occasions. In his own words:

“But we do not accept that title without qualification. We are not ashamed of it, and we would rather be called ‘Calvinists’ than have any other name except that which is our true one. We hold, and assert again and again, that the truth which Calvin preached, the truth which Augustine thundered out with all his might, was the very truth which the apostle Paul had long before written in his inspired Epistles, and which is most clearly revealed in the discourses of our blessed Lord himself. We desire to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We are not the followers of any mere man; we do not derive our inspiration from Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries, but from the Word of God itself. Yet we hold the doctrines commonly called ‘Calvinism’ to be none other than the essential basement doctrines of our holy faith. These were the truths that Whitefield preached, and that produced the great revival in his days; and these must be the doctrines to which the Church of God must again return, if the Church of Rome is to be razed to its deep foundations, or souls to be converted in great multitudes, or the kingdom of Christ to come.”[10]

Spurgeon believed that Calvinism reflects the true teaching of the Scriptures; he embraced it because his conscience was persuaded that the Word of God demonstrably warrants and supports it. He also believed that the distinctive doctrines of Calvinism distinguish and safeguard the grace of the gospel so that they are foundational to the gospel and vital for the accurate and faithful communication of the gospel to the world.

The pedigree of Spurgeon’s Calvinism and its harmony with the historic Reformation movement following Calvin and Knox has been called into question by some.[11] But Spurgeon was emphatic. “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”[12] Spurgeon reckoned his doctrine was fully in line with classical Calvinism.[13]

He had been “born and bred a Puritan,” said Michael Reeves.[14] In addition to being brought up under Nonconformist evangelical influence, from an early age Charles dabbled with curiosity and delight into his grandfather’s Puritan library.[15] “Out of that darkened room I fetched those old authors when I was yet a youth, and never was I happier than when in their company,” he reflected.[16] As he became of age, he had a voracious appetite for Puritan literature and devoured it in droves.

Hence Spurgeon did not blush to say, “The doctrine which I preach is that of the Puritans.”[17] Reeves notes how Spurgeon “has often been accorded the title Ultimus Puritanorum (‘the last of the Puritans’),” but Spurgeon himself rejected such a title because his goal in the Pastor’s College was to train ministers to perpetuate the theology of the Puritans.[18] Despite the disdain and reproach this brought from Anglican and state-associated circles, Spurgeon reveled in his identification with men such as Perkins, Bunyan, Watson, Flavel, Brooks, and Rutherford. “I have been charged with being a mere echo of the Puritans, but I had rather be the echo of truth than the voice of falsehood.”[19] Ernest Bacon stated that Spurgeon “was completely moulded and fashioned by those spiritual giants of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Puritans. He stood in their noble tradition, in the direct line of their theology and outlook, and can without question be called The Heir of the Puritans.”[20]

Spurgeon had no quarrel with what the Puritans taught concerning the doctrines of grace. He endorsed the Westminster Confession of Faith (with reservations regarding baptism of course) and its sister document, the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.[21] His endorsement of this latter confession was especially enthusiastic and without reserve. Each of these confessional standards articulates the doctrines of grace clearly. Spurgeon’s preaching was not a new Calvinism of his own concoction but the “old fashioned,” confessional Calvinism defined in rather comprehensive detail by his predecessors in the faith. Unlike many of the Calvinists of today who jettison the church’s historic confessions and creeds under the pretense of upholding biblical authority,[22] Spurgeon was a confessional Calvinist; he endorsed the Reformed confessions because he was convinced that they faithfully summarize the teaching of Scripture.

On August 16, 1859, after a season of extraordinary evangelistic success for the young preacher, the opening ceremony was held to celebrate the congregation’s expansion into the Metropolitan Tabernacle. At the ceremony for the setting of the first stone, Spurgeon announced his “unwavering allegiance” to the doctrines of grace.[23] “We believe in what are called the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic,” he declared.[24] Under that first foundation stone, Spurgeon placed a Bible, announcing, “we put that as the foundation of our church. Upon this rock doth Christ build the ministration of his truth. We know of nothing else as our standard.” But that was not all that was placed under the foundation. “Together with this we have put the old Baptist Confession of Faith [i.e., the 1689 London Baptist Confession], which was signed in the olden times by Benjamin Keach, whose name is in this book.”[25] Spurgeon’s Calvinism was conscientiously confessional in continuity with his Particular Baptist forebears.

Like the Puritans, Spurgeon’s interest in the doctrines of grace had a decisive experiential dimension about it. Such an approach to theological matters is a hallmark of the Puritan and Reformed theology of grace; it is part of the very definition of theology given by William Perkins (1558–1602), William Ames (1576–1633), and Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706), each of whom include in their definition the life of piety and ethics.[26] Richard Muller notes that post-Reformation theology in the Puritan tradition was concerned to move theology beyond knowledge (scientia) and wisdom (sapientia)—common to the scholastic approaches—into Christian living (pietas). Such theology was concerned with the “use,” or experiential and practical import, of theology.[27] Spurgeon stands in the stream of this tradition, ever concerned to make his sovereign grace theology eminently applicable to the lives of saints and sinners.

The Puritans teach that we must ever distinguish between “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge,” between theoretical, notional, or mere doctrinal knowledge and experiential, personal, and vital knowledge.[28] Spurgeon insists, “No form of doctrine, however scriptural, can ever save the soul if it be only received by the head, and does not work in its mighty energy upon the heart.”[29] The truth must be sealed with soteric efficacy to our hearts by the Spirit.[30] Oliphant Old comments, “Spurgeon was learned in a Puritan sort of way. He was not interested in learning for the sake of learning. His learning was to the end of godliness, not to the end of intellectual sophistication or worldly power.”[31] As the apostle Paul taught, doctrine must tend to godliness (1 Tim. 6:3); the knowledge of the truth must engender and foster piety (Titus 1:1); the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), and whenever it is truly known and embraced, the efficacy of the Spirit’s grace confirms the truth to God’s elect by making them partakers of the spiritual and soteric reality conveyed by the truth so that their experience resonates with—and confirms and “amens”—the doctrine received.

What is true of theology generally and the gospel specifically is applied by Spurgeon to the doctrines of grace particularly. They must be not only understood but “experientially known and embraced.”[32] He differentiates between learning the doctrines of grace by men’s instruction versus learning them by the Spirit’s salvific teaching. “Now, let me show you a little in detail how God writes the great truths of his Word on our hearts,” he says.

“You learned a doctrine in this way. I may have preached it to your ears; but God laid it on your heart. You knew that it was so; for the Lord had taught it to you by his Spirit; and nobody can ever beat it out of you now. . . . Since then, you have learned other doctrines, possibly the five points of Calvinism, or the fifty points of any other system; but you never learned them from merely reading them in the Scriptures, you never really knew them till the pen of God began to move up and down upon your inward nature, and your heart received the impression the Lord intended to convey to it.”[33]

A firm grasp of the experiential orientation of Spurgeon’s (and the Puritan’s) theology is necessary to appreciate his evangelistic employment of the doctrines of grace. In all his exposition and application, Spurgeon sought to make the experience of salvation somewhat central to the rightful reception of the doctrines of grace, as that experience is considered in association with the gospel and the exercise of faith and repentance.

The Role of the Doctrines of Grace
in Evangelistic Preaching

To further get at the essence of the matter, we must consider the precise role the doctrines of grace played in the preaching of Spurgeon. How did he handle these doctrines? How did he direct their “use” toward the end of bringing his hearers into an encounter with the living God in Christ? In what specifically does the evangelistic usefulness of these doctrines consist?

Spurgeon would agree with John Duncan when he quipped, “Hyper-Calvinism is all house and no door; Arminianism is all door and no house.”[34] He was careful to avoid the passivity and fatalism of Hyper-Calvinism, which was prevalent in England (and beyond) at the time. It had particularly taken root among the Particular Baptists leading up to Spurgeon’s time. Spurgeon himself succeeded John Gill (1697–1771) as a pastor, who, despite being a champion of Reformed and Baptist theology, had a definitive Hyper-Calvinistic bent.[35] While Spurgeon expressed high esteem for Gill (and rightly so), he rejected Gill’s imbalanced and high Calvinism. Spurgeon’s was of a more moderate kind akin to “Fullerism” (named after the Baptist pastor-theologian, Andrew Fuller [1754–1815]), known for its evangelistic bent and insistence on the “well-meant,” free offer of the gospel.[36]

The doctrines of total depravity and election do not mean that the gospel offer is only for “sensible sinners.” The invitation to come to Christ and received free forgiveness of sin is universal. Iain Murray says, “Spurgeon held that the scriptural warrant for the unconverted to trust in Christ rests on nothing in themselves; the warrant lies in the invitation of Christ.”[37] The practical import of this is that Spurgeon made large, affectionate, earnest invitations for sinners to come to Christ, and to come to him at once, without delay. He made ample use of the law in its pedagogical function—to awaken sinners to their forensic and inherent guilt and need of an alien righteousness—but he rejected the preparationism of Hyper-Calvinism that turned people in on themselves and made them to look to their experience for the warrant for faith and assurance, rather than to the Word and testimony of Christ.[38]

Arminianism was also eschewed, abhorred even. Spurgeon’s attitude toward it is enlightening relative to the present topic because Arminianism held forth a gospel devoid of the doctrines of grace. His attitude therefore speaks to his assessment of preaching that does not incorporate the doctrines of grace. What did Spurgeon think of Arminian evangelism? He believed it corrupted the grace of the gospel by introducing a principle of legality into the schema of salvation. 

“I will not say that the Arminian teaches that salvation is by works; this is so continually denied by the Arminian, that I will not charge a falsehood upon him, at which he professes to shudder; but at the same time, I do say, that the tendency of Arminianism is towards legality; it is nothing but legality which lays at the root of Arminianism. Any one doctrine of the Arminian which differs from the orthodox, let it be carefully dissected, will prove that after all his ground of difference is legality.”[39]

And legality is a big problem, because it means sinners are prone to self-preference and self-righteousness and carnal confidence, resulting in bias against the gospel and its grace, constituting obstacles that must be overcome if the preacher is to drive home the gospel to men’s hearts and see sinners receive it to the salvation of their souls. On the flipside, then, the doctrines of grace are remedial in that they directly confront and counter man’s legalistic disposition.

The doctrines of grace in Spurgeon’s hands are thus eminently useful in the service of preaching. “The purest Evangelism springs from this truth” (speaking of election and divine sovereignty).[40]

First, these doctrines humble sinners and make them to depend on God. “The doctrine of election and other great truths which declare salvation to be all of grace, and to be, not the right of the creature, but the gift of the Sovereign Lord, are all calculated to hide pride from man, and so to prepare him to receive the mercy of God.”[41] Thus in the doctrines of grace is encompassed the truth that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jon. 2:9).[42] The sovereignty of God in salvation must be preached to abase man, exalt God, and urge sinners to flee from self and sin to Christ and salvation.[43]

Second, the doctrines of grace communicate the core truths of the gospel. Their purpose was vital for they served to clarify and highlight and distinguish and make conspicuous the gracious nature of the gospel. And sinners must clearly understand God’s grace if they are to receive it with “the empty hand of faith.”[44] In an address to his ministerial students at the Pastor’s College entitled “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” Spurgeon explicitly stated that he considered these doctrines to be “the very essence of all theology,” which of course has the gospel of Christ at the center.[45] Drummond likewise says that the doctrines of grace were “something of the core” of Spurgeon’s theology.[46] Accordingly, Spurgeon was quite dogmatic:

“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 peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; 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 believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.”[47]

Third, the doctrines of grace highlight the cross work of Christ. Spurgeon said, “We believe in what are called the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard those five points as being barbed shafts which we are to push into the bowels of Christendom.” He was averse to those who contended for the doctrines of Calvinism schismatically but failed to emphasize “Christ and him crucified” in their preaching (1 Cor. 2:2). “We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross, or rather five bright emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified. Against all comers, especially against all lovers of Arminianism, we defend and maintain pure gospel truth.” [48] The entire cross-work of Christ is subsumed under the rubric of a predestinarian decree of sovereign love, making the cross the accomplishment of pure and free grace which redounds to the glory of Christ.

Spurgeon’s handling of these doctrines was not for their own sake but conscientiously in subservience to the cross. He loved to preach the doctrines of grace because they point to the all-sufficiency of Christ’s blood with regard to the provision of the atonement and the omnipotent efficacy of Christ’s blood with regard to the scope of the atonement (made effective, to be sure, by the Spirit’s application of salvation in uniting sinners to Christ). “Of all I would wish to say this is the sum: my brethren, preach CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.”[49] I think Spurgeon shines the brightest as a preacher of Jesus Christ. Few preachers in the history of the church had such a radical, consistently Christ-centered focus as he did. His handling of the doctrines of grace is illustrative in this respect because Spurgeon’s Calvinism and his preaching was not just generically theocentric but was distinctly and thoroughly Christocentric.[50]

Fourth, the doctrines of grace guarantee the success of evangelism. Spurgeon points out the inconsistency of the Arminian who prays for God to convert people through the preaching of the gospel. If man’s will possesses “a kind of omnipotence” to resist God’s will to bestow saving grace, then it is not right to pray for conversions “if the will of man is perfectly free, and cannot be influenced by anything that God can do.”[51] On the other hand, Calvinists can pray for God to convert lost sinners not only with theological consistency, but with faith and confidence that it certainly is the will of God to answer such prayers, at least in some measure. Christ died specifically to propitiate divine wrath for particular people, securing their redemption, to be effectuated in their experience upon their conversion to Christ.[52] Preachers can declare the gospel with the confidence that God will effectually call his elect and unite them savingly to Christ. Sovereign election, particular redemption, and effectual calling, taken together, mean that Christ will assuredly bring all his scattered sheep into his fold through the preaching of the gospel (see John 10:16).[53]

Fifth, the doctrines of grace provide encouragement for sinners to receive the gospel and be converted. In his sermon titled, “Election No Discouragement to Seeking Souls,” Spurgeon argued that election does not discourage but rather encourage sinners to embrace Christ and be converted; an assertion he supports with various arguments.[54] Sinners may despair that they are dead in sin, unable and unwilling to come to Christ; but sovereign and effectual grace encourages them to believe God, that he can do what they cannot and overcome their obstinate will by the power of a monergistic new birth. “When a man is weaned from self, and totally delivered from looking to the flesh for help, there is hope for him: and this the doctrine of divine sovereignty does through the Holy Spirit’s power.”[55] The unconverted may think that if they surrender their lives to the call of Christ, they will be unable to live up to his commands and persevere in a pattern of sanctified obedience; the doctrines of grace encourage him that the God who will save him will also keep him eternally.

Sixth, the doctrines of grace foster good spiritual fruit. Contrary to Arminianism with its tendency manipulate sinners into making decisions for Christ, Calvinistic gospel preaching ensures that true conversions rather than false ones will take place because it presents a purer gospel and more accurate depiction of the nature of true conversion. The spiritual fruit and practical holiness evident in the lives of Calvinists, Spurgeon says, vindicates the utility of preaching the doctrines of grace, for it testifies to the transforming power of the doctrine preached.[56] Addressing his pastoral students, Spurgeon commends the preaching of the doctrines of grace to them by arguing that these doctrines were weaved into the evangelistic preaching of men peculiarly used of God, and are eminent in those eras that were mightily blessed of God. “From reading history, I notice that those periods, in which the Church of God has most flourished, have been the periods when Calvinism has been to the front,” he says.[57]

Seventh, the doctrines of grace give all glory to God for the salvation of sinners. This doxological aspect is here mentioned last, but it was Spurgeon’s first aim. Calvinism is known for its Godward, exultant, doxological outlook. As Sinclair Ferguson says, “the knowledge of the sovereignty of God exercised in all of these spheres leads to a single response from the heart of faith: ‘Glory to God forever,’ or, in the familiar Latin words by which the teaching of the Reformation is often summarized, soli Deo gloria—to God alone be the glory!”[58] Spurgeon insists that the doctrines of grace secure a potent reason for praising God. We may forgive him if he exaggerates a little when he mocks Arminianism a bit facetiously: “If you take away this doctrine from us” he says, “I do not know whether I shall have cause to praise God from day to day. I cannot praise him for making me his child, because I do not know whether I shall be his child tomorrow.…”[59]

To preach the gospel faithfully, one must preach the distinctives of Calvinism clearly. That is unequivocally what Spurgeon believed, however offensive the modern evangelical may find it. To reject the doctrines of grace is to reject the gospel. Spurgeon was distraught over preaching that did not communicate the doctrines of grace, even more so over believers who rejected Calvinism. “My dear friends, after all, the kicking against the doctrine of election, is a kicking against the gospel, because this doctrine is a first principle in the divine plan of mercy, and when rightly known, it prepares our minds to receive all the other doctrines.”[60] By incorporating the doctrines of grace into his preaching, Spurgeon was able to proclaim the grace of God in all its sublimity and omnipotence and glory. Multitudes found such preaching attractive and flocked to it in herds. Steve Lawson writes, “Spurgeon believed the doctrines of sovereign grace, far from being a hindrance to evangelism, are a great harvester of souls. The truths of God’s elective, redeeming love infused soul-saving power into his preaching and brought many to faith in Christ.”[61]

Lessons from Spurgeon’s Example
for Preacher’s Today

Having surveyed what Spurgeon believed about the doctrines of grace and their utility in preaching, we turn now to consider a handful of lessons that can be gleaned for preachers today. The following points are merely suggestive; but they do stress important principles that I fear are generally neglected—grossly neglected—in much of modern evangelical preaching.

Preaching the doctrines of grace with evangelistic zeal. In contrast to the cold spiritual climate that settled upon many Particular Baptist churches in the nineteenth century, squelching their zeal to see the unconverted come to Christ, Spurgeon’s Calvinism made him more—not less—enthusiastic about evangelism. The sovereignty of God does not mean the preaching of the gospel can be safely neglected. The Lord uses means to accomplish his sovereign purposes; He uses the communication of the gospel to bring the elect to faith (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 2:10). Spurgeon would agree with J.I. Packer when he wrote, “We must realize, therefore, that when God sends us to evangelize, he sends us to act as vital links in the chain of his purpose for the salvation of his elect.”[62] Preacher’s today can preserve the fire of their evangelistic zeal by recognizing that “the liberty and contingency of second causes” under divine sovereignty makes evangelism significant and meaningful, not to mention indispensable as the instrumental means of the salvation of the elect.[63]

Spurgeon was keen on this and his zeal for evangelism was therefore unabated throughout the tenure of his ministry. He wrote, “Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian minister.”[64] He preached to his congregation, “First and foremost our business is to win souls, to bring men to Jesus. . . . This is what we must be devoted to, this is the main and chief concern of believers, the very reason for the existence of a church; if she regard it not, she forgets her highest end.”[65] Does this mean Spurgeon believed an anthropocentric rather than theocentric aim was ultimate as one’s pursuit in the Christian life? Certainly not. Addressing his ministerial students on the topic, “On Conversion as our Aim,” he clarifies that the glory of God is in fact the Christian’s highest aim. This end is to be sought as “our chief object,” and “we aim at it by seeking the edification of saints and the conversion of sinners.” But “our great object of glorifying God is, however, to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls.”[66] So burdened was Spurgeon over this matter that he told his students, “We must see souls born unto God. If we do not, our cry should be that of Rachel ‘Give me children, or I die.’” If we do not win souls, we should mourn as the husbandman who sees no harvest, as the fisherman who turns to his cottage with an empty net.”[67] We must remember, of course, that Spurgeon’s zeal to evangelize was expressed by the preaching of the gospel with his distinctive emphasis on the doctrines of grace.

Preaching the doctrines of grace with boldness. Although Calvinism was alive and well in Spurgeon’s day (even in Baptist circles), it had fallen on hard times compared to its previous proliferation in England and beyond. Spurgeon’s Calvinistic message was largely counter-cultural, therefore—not only contrary to world culture but also to the prevailing sentiments of Christian culture. He was often the brunt of harsh criticism for preaching the doctrines of grace in the tradition of classical Calvinism. Theological liberals who had imbibed the German higher criticism scorned him for his “old-fashioned,” “antiquarian,” and “fundamentalist” views of supernatural grace.[68] Arminians criticized him for allegedly undermining man’s responsibility in salvation. Hyper-Calvinists charged him with preaching a “duty faith” and manipulating hearers into false assurance. His Calvinism won him some friends, to be sure, but it made for him many more adversaries, who did everything they could to undermine his influence and burden him with innumerable, grievous, and distracting slanders.

But Spurgeon was undeterred by the opinions of men. “Whatever is in the Word of God is to be preached.”[69] He preached sovereign grace boldly, as a man commissioned from the Most High to declare the authoritative message of good news to the world. “I have not minced matters, nor endeavoured to veil or conceal the truth, but as to every man’s conscience in the sight of God, have I endeavoured to commend the gospel, earnestly and with power, and with a plain, outspoken, earnest, and honest ministry.” This includes the forthright teaching of Calvinistic distinctives. “I have not kept back the glorious doctrines of grace, although by preaching them the enemies of the cross have called me an Antinomian; nor have I been afraid to preach man’s solemn responsibility, although another tribe have slandered me as an Arminian.”[70] Preachers of sovereign grace today should take heart that their message has divine authorization, and they have been commissioned by the King of heaven to declare it, and whether or not men are minded to accept it is irrelevant to the forthrightness and boldness with which they should declare the doctrines of grace as integral to the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Preaching the doctrines of grace with emphasis. Stemming from his convictions regarding the centrality of the doctrines of grace to the gospel, Spurgeon saw fit to emphasize sovereign grace as a keynote in all his preaching.[71] He was rather explicit in admitting it. “I do not hesitate to say, that next to the doctrine of the crucifixion and the resurrection of our most blessed Lord—no doctrine had such prominence in the early Christian Church as the doctrine of the election of grace.”[72] He sought to replicate this emphasis from Peter and Paul, especially as the latter is interpreted by the “doctor of grace,” Augustine of Hippo (354–430).

In modern evangelicalism, it became popular to “saw off the rough edges” of theological truths in order to reduce the gospel to its lowest common denominator, so to speak.[73] By focusing on the essentials the faith and shunning discussion of doctrinal distinctives, Christians were able to put aside their differences and unite their efforts in evangelism. Sometimes doctrine is hushed or silenced as a matter of emphasis more than as a matter of absolute principle. Such pragmatism, noble as its goal is, willfully ignores God’s revelation in the means it uses to attain its goal, and in so doing it “sacrifices the truth on the altar of peace.” Spurgeon was adamantly opposed to such “compromise,” as he called it, if it meant preaching a gospel bereft of divine sovereignty and the doctrines of grace. To cut away the doctrines of grace is to truncate the gospel, resulting in a reductionistic, “bare bones” evangel that is anemic and impotent in contrast to its full-orbed, healthy Calvinistic alternative. Like watered-down medicine that loses efficacy in proportion to its dilution, the gospel loses clarity and Spirit-sealing efficacy in proportion to the dilution of its central truths, which include—especially—the doctrines of grace. Truth that is in dispute needs to be proclaimed with all the more emphasis to prevent error and foster needful reformation in the church.

Preaching the doctrines of grace with profundity. Much of evangelical preaching in Spurgeon’s era, as in ours (though more so in ours), was “short on doctrine.”[74] Spurgeon had no formal academic training, but he was a diligent student and brilliant theologian, nonetheless. He taught that ministers must always pursue growth in knowledge that they may be “thoroughly well acquainted with the great doctrines of the Word of God,” and be “well instructed in theology.”[75] He was concerned for ministers in his Pastor’s College who were “workers with slender apparatus,” that is, scarcity of theological books in their possession. He encouraged them to read frequently and widely to feed their own souls so that out of that abundance they could feed Christ’s sheep.[76] “Remember that the appliances [resources] now within the reach of ordinary Christians are much more extensive than they were in our fathers’ days, and therefore you must be greater Biblical scholars if you would keep in front of your hearers.”[77]

His preaching of the doctrines of grace was, from a doctrinal and theological perspective, robustly comprehensive yet not tediously exhaustive.[78] He combatted the tendency to dumb down preaching by incorporating the full gamut of systematic theology into his preaching of salvation, focusing particularly on central evangelical truths. He was careful to avoid needless technicalities, ever mindful to adapt his teaching to the capacities of his hearers as he aimed at their profit and edification. Instead of capitulating to the mental sloth of hearers, Spurgeon’s example suggests we should challenge them to expand their knowledge of the things of God by pressing their intellectual grasp of God’s Word to its reasonable limits without overwhelming them with an abundance of information. This is instructive for us when we consider doctrines such as predestination and reprobation, for instance, or the eternal decree or wonder of the atonement. Can we preach them in such a way that the unconverted are challenged to be receive the gospel and believers are edified and sufficiently “fed” at the same time? We can learn from Spurgeon as he masterfully dished out milk for babes and meat for men.

Preaching the doctrines of grace plainly. Spurgeon, praised as he is for his golden tongue of perhaps unparalleled eloquence, was criticized in his day for preaching in a “coarse” style for “the poor man,” the unrefined or unsophisticated ‘average Joe.’ He eschewed the “ornate,” “florid,” and “witty” “grand style” of eloquent Anglican preaching in favor of the “plain style” of the Puritans.[79] Joseph Pipa explains, “The plain style was not a dull, drab, unadorned style, but rather a style of communication that was direct and in the language of the hearers. Rhetoric, therefore, took second seat to truth.” The rationale for this approach is straightforward: “Positively, the Puritans adopted this style because it was designed for effective communication. If people were to be changed by the sermon, they had to understand and remember it. Plain style was part of a theory of communication that desired to make the word clear to the common people.”[80] Profundity of doctrine must be combined with plainness of speech to make it palatable and digestible.[81]

Dallimore says, “Spurgeon dealt with some of the grandest and deepest matters known to the human mind—God, man, sins, atonement, eternity—but in his discourses he gave those vast truths a simplification that rendered them grippingly understandable to the common man.”[82] The plain preaching of the doctrines of grace, for Spurgeon, meant defining, explaining, and illustrating these truths on a regular basis. It meant using language readily understood by the people and defining language when it would not be understood. It meant dividing sermons into points to facilitate clarity and memory. It also meant preaching with “a direct style,” pointedly addressing hearers with the truths of sovereign grace and meeting out varied and specific applications—each drawn with specificity from the heading of the sermon point—according to the needs presented by the diversity of hearers in the congregation, including children.[83]

Preaching the doctrines of grace experientially. The doctrines of grace must be preached to experience from experience, that is, they should first be preached to one’s own heart before they are preached to the minds and hearts of others.[84] Sinclair Ferguson speaks to this when he says that one of the keys to “fruitful preaching to the heart is the preacher’s own grasp of the principle and the reality of grace.”[85] Spurgeon testifies to this in his Autobiography: “The gospel a thing of power! Ah! that it is. It always wears the dew of its youth; it glitters with morning’s freshness, its strength and its glory abide for ever. I have felt its power in my own heart; I have the witness of the Spirit within my spirit, and I know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me, and bowed me down.”[86] Would to God that preachers today would know the power of the gospel and be likewise “conquered” and dominated by the sovereign and amazing grace of the triune God.

From this personal communion with the power of the truth the preacher is to “make close and searching application” from the text to his hearers, says the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God.[87] All of the elements of experiential application delineated by the divines behind the Directory can be observed in Spurgeon’s preaching on the sovereignty of God and so-called five points of Calvinism. He instructs, exhorts, reproves, admonishes, implores, pleads, warns, confutes contemporary errors, and puts his hearers under “trial” as they called it by prodding his hearers to self-examination, to see if they had truly experienced the grace of God, thus making use of specific applications drawn from his comprehensive articulation of these sovereign grace truths.

Preaching the doctrines of grace discriminatorily. An important aspect of experiential preaching is the discriminatory element, which discerns between “the church and the world,” “the true believer and the false professor,” and “different individualities within the church.”[88] Spurgeon conceded that God’s Word “speaks with keen discrimination and separates the precious from the vile,” and preached it with a “sharp edge” of demarcation between true and false grace.[89] Thus thousands of professing Christians testified to being awakened to their unregenerate condition under his preaching, upon which realization they fled to Christ for mercy and were savingly converted. Preachers should follow Spurgeon’s example in the discriminatory application of the doctrines of grace. It cannot be safely assumed that everybody present in church is truly born of the Spirit (John 3:3). Hearers must experience the reality of “vital godliness,” including conviction over their depravity, transformation by the power of the new birth, and the assurance and sweetness of forgiveness by the shedding abroad of God’s love in the heart (Rom. 5:5).[90] The church needs more preachers who will wisely distinguish between true and false religious experience and true and false conversions based on the fruits of a sanctified life flowing from regenerating grace if people are to have clarity regarding the true nature of conversion and a well-grounded assurance.[91]

Preaching the doctrines of grace proportionately. Spurgeon was careful to balance the truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in his evangelism. He did this not by limiting his focus to one or another but by integrating both into the whole of his preaching. “ He did not deny or diminish either of these parallel truths, as he called them.[92] He reflected, “Good John Newton used to say of his Calvinism, that he did not preach it in masses of dry doctrine like pieces of lump sugar, but that it was stirred up in all his preaching, like sugar dissolved in our tea.”[93] Seeking to maintain this balance in his evangelism, Spurgeon implores sinners with a jolting kind of bluntness by pressing upon them these twin truths:

“God knoweth that I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God,—divine sovereignty in all its absoluteness, and the sinner’s responsibility in all its fulness. I have preached to you the doctrines of grace; but I have not, therefore, kept back the demands of God upon you; and I know that, should you perish, it will neither be for want of preaching, nor of weeping. Well, sirs, if you do perish with the gospel preached in your ears, you perish fearfully indeed.”[94]

Preaching the doctrines of grace momentously. Finally, we observe that Spurgeon confronted the unconverted with the claims of the gospel and called on them to respond without delay, reasoning, urging, entreating, even pleading, and calling for faith and repentance. Nettles observes, “One would be hard pressed to find even one sermon in the entirety of the New Park Street Pulpit and the Metropolitan Tabernacle that did not include direct addresses to the unconverted.”[95] Preachers today must likewise extend the affectionate invitation of the gospel call to the unconverted with direct and passionate appeals. The invitations and warnings of preachers should be bathed in tears, and like Spurgeon, they should pray earnestly that the Lord would make their preaching fruitful, trusting in his sovereign grace to make it so. Divine sovereignty does not undermine the urgency with which the preacher should press sinners to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), nor with which he should pray for conversions as “brokenhearted evangelists” who sincerely love the souls of men.[96]


Calvinism, the doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God—these truths are not opposed to biblical and effective evangelism, but foundational to it. At least, Spurgeon believed as much. And his example as a “soul winner” demonstrates his evangelism was wildly effective. As James Montgomery Boice said, “Spurgeon was one of the greatest evangelists England has ever seen, as well as one of the country’s staunchest defenders of the doctrines of grace.”[97] Preachers today should learn from his example by applying these core truths of the gospel in all their fullness to the challenges posed by contemporary culture in our “post-Christian era.”

Yet we must keep in mind that Spurgeon preached the doctrines of grace “ever mindful that these beliefs were only part of the whole counsel of God and not the sum total. These points were helpful, defensive summaries, but they did not take the place of the vast theater of redemption within which God’s complete and eternal plan was worked out in the Old and New Testaments.”[98] In his words,

“I love to preach the distinguishing grace of God, but I am far from thinking that some four or five points comprise all the truths which God has revealed. Be it ours to preach the doctrines . . . with Christ as their sum and substance; ‘a full Christ for empty sinners,’ be this our theme. To a great extent it is true of a ministry that seeketh only to exalt doctrines, that it hath not the fulness of the Holy Ghost in it, for of the Holy Spirit it is written ‘He shall glorify me.’”[99]

Christ was his gospel, his life, his main theme, his all in all. May the Lord raise up a new generation of preachers who are madly in love with Jesus Christ and endowed with power from on high to adapt the old truths of sovereign grace to our contemporary, paganizing, post-Christian era with pertinence and with power. Spurgeon faithfully addressed his own generation. Will we be a voice of truth and prophetic mouthpiece to our own?




[1] Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 275.

[2] Beeke, Living for God’s Glory, 285.

[3] Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: The Modern Age, vol. 6(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007), 422. This is quite a statement considering that the Victorian era was graced by many able and influential preachers, such as John Charles Ryle (1816–1900), Alexander Maclaren (1826–1910), and Joseph Parker (1830–1902).

[4] Quoted in Thomas J. Nettles, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers,” in A Legacy of Preaching, Volume Two—Enlightenment to the Present Day, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Kevin L. King, Bill Curtis, Dwayne Milioni (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 102.

[5] Kent Ellis Sweatman, “The Doctrines of Calvinism in the Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1998), 88.

[6] Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, 6:439.

[7] E.g., Jonathan Edwards, The Great Awakening, ed. Harry S. Stout and C. C. Goen, Revised Edition., vol. 4, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009), 226; Jonathan Edwards, “God’s People to Pray for the Promised Latter-Day Outpouring of the Spirit,” in Jonathan Edwards Sermons, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven, CT: The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, 1746), Ezek. 36:36–37.

[8] Eifion Evans explains what happens in revival: “The saving and sanctifying effects of the Holy Spirit in revival are widespread, powerful, and general. God’s presence becomes real, God’s people are revitalized, there is unction, life, and authority in preaching, the ungodly are brought under strong conviction of sin, and the impact of the gospel is irresistible. In this way revival is distinguished from the ordinary work of the Church in ministering the Word of God.” Fire in the Thatch: The True Nature of Religious Revival (Wales, UK: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1996), 14. That is an apt description, if I have ever heard one (!), of what happened under the preaching of Spurgeon. It should be noted that Spurgeon himself as well as his contemporaries considered that they were experiencing revival. “From the day [Spurgeon] commenced his labours in our midst, it pleased the Lord our God to grant us a revival which has steadily progressed ever since.” See C. H. Spurgeon, “The Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 5 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1859), 349–350. A helpful survey of the theology of revival, with a summary of some historical revivals, including some interaction with Spurgeon, see Iain H. Murray, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival (Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998).

[9] Sweatman, “The Doctrines of Calvinism in the Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 88–90.

[10] C. H. Spurgeon, “Salvation by Grace,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 47 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1901), 398.

[11] For a summary, see Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth, 196–97.

[12] C. H. Spurgeon, “A Defense of Calvinism,” The Spurgeon Archive,

[13] See Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, 14.

[14] Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 52.

[15] C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1834–1854, vol. 1 (Cincinatti; Chicago; St. Louis: Curts & Jennings, 1898), 67.

[16] Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:23.

[17] Quoted in Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, 51.

[18] Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, 51.

[19] Quoted in Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1992), 613.

[20] Ernest W. Bacon, Spurgeon: Heir of the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), 102.

[21] Abundant proof of this exists in Spurgeon’s writings. For example, in preaching on election, disavowing equal ultimacy in reprobation, Spurgeon said, “I might refer you to our standards, such as ‘The Westminster Assembly’s Catechism,’ and to all our Confessions, for they all distinctly state that man is lost for sin, and that there is no punishment put on any man except that which he richly and righteously deserves.” Spurgeon, “Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace,” in MTP, 7:301. In one sermon, Spurgeon says that most of his church members were in possession of the 2LBC and the Baptist Catechism (commonly called Keach’s). See C. H. Spurgeon, “Threefold Sanctification,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 8 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862), 93.

[22] Concerning which, see Carl R. Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).

[23] Steven J. Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2012), 12.

[24] Spurgeon, “The Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 5:353.

[25] Spurgeon, “The Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 5:351.

[26] Calvin, of course, was inclined toward this before them. As the editors say in the Introduction to the Battles’ translation of Calvin’s Institutes, “For him, piety is unavoidably associated with doctrine.” “He calls his book not a summa theologiae but a summa pietatis. The secret of his mental energy lies in his piety; its product is his theology, which is his piety described at length. His task is to expound (in the language of his original title) “the whole sum of piety and whatever it is necessary to know in the doctrine of salvation.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), li–lii.

[27] Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena to Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 158 (see 154–58).

[28] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 43–47.

[29] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Secret Spot,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 13 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1867), 628.

[30] Reformed divines have historically distinguished between the external principle of knowledge and the internal principle of knowledge. The external principle is the Word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures. The internal principle is the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work. The Spirit, in salvation, bears witness by and with the Word in our hearts, so that a new nature by regeneration and faith by the Spirit’s gifting operate to elicit an embracing of the truth of the gospel and of God’s Word from the heart, resulting in a communion with the living God and experiential acquaintance with the existential dimensions of the truth; and this extends not only to the truth in general but also and especially to truth as contained and communicated in particular doctrines, such as the doctrines of grace.

[31] Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, 6:424. This helps to explain why Spurgeon held that some Arminians, like John Wesley, knew God personally and savingly, while some Calvinists, with all their dryness and deadness of doctrine, are only made fitter by their informed hypocrisy to burn all the hotter in the everlasting flames. Spurgeon said, “At the present day, if you speak to a man about his soul, he will ask you, ‘Are you an Arminian or a Calvinist?’ To this we reply, ‘Dear fellow, are you saved? that is your matter. We will tell you what we are another time; for the present you need a Saviour, and there ought your mind to settle.’” C. H. Spurgeon, “Questions of the Day and the Question of the Day,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 55. Almost a decade prior, he preached, “we grossly mistake if we think that orthodoxy of creed will save us. I am sick of those cries of “the truth,” “the truth,” “the truth,” from men of rotten lives and unholy tempers. There is an orthodox as well as a heterodox road to hell, and the devil knows how to handle Calvinists quite as well as Arminians. No pale of any Church can insure salvation, no form of doctrine can guarantee to us eternal life. ‘Ye must be born again.’ Ye must bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” C. H. Spurgeon, “Nothing but Leaves,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 10 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1864), 99.

[32] Joel R. Beeke, “Experiential Preaching,” in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, ed. Don Kistler (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 55.

[33] C. H. Spurgeon, “God’s Handwriting upon David,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 38 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1892), 521–22.

[34] Quoted in Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), 38.

[35] See Curt Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983).

[36] About this, see Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism; Sam Waldron, The Crux of the Free Offer of the Gospel: A Biblical, Confessional, and Theological Explanation and Defense of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel (Greenbrier, AR: Free Grace Press, 2019); Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (Sussex, England: Carey Publications Ltd., 1973.

[37] Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, 72–73. Spurgeon did not root the warrant of the gospel offer in the atonement but in the precept of God’s Word (see pp. 74–75).

[38] Hence the following invitation (cited in Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, 79) is indicative of Spurgeon’s regular appeals for sinners to come to Christ: “Sinners, let me address you with words of life: Jesus wants nothing of you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as ye are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'” C. H. Spurgeon, “The Warrant of Faith,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 537–538. This sermon directly addresses some of the challenges posed by Hyper-Calvinism.

[39] C. H. Spurgeon, “Effects of Sound Doctrine,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 6 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 304.

[40] Spurgeon, “Effects of Sound Doctrine,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 6:304.

[41] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1881), 2:182.

[42] “God worketh all in all. Salvation is of the Lord, it is not of man, neither by man; neither is it of the will of man, nor of the flesh, nor of blood, nor of birth, but of the will of God. The purpose of God and the power of God work salvation from first to last.” C. H. Spurgeon, “An Old-Fashioned Conversion,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 148.

[43] See Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinner’s to Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013), 78, 198.

[44] C. H. Spurgeon, “Rest, Rest,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 17 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 16–17.

[45] C. H. Spurgeon, “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” in C H Spurgeon’s Forgotten College Addresses (Leonminster, UK: Day One Publications, 2016), 166. This address is particularly relevant to our current discussion because it represents an entire lecture that Spurgeon, himself determining the subject-matter of the discourse, thought pertinent for his students to know. Of all the subjects he could have lectured to his students about, Spurgeon on this occasion thought needful to instruct them concerning the importance of regularly, frequently, emphatically preaching the doctrines of grace.

[46] Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, 635.

[47] C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ Crucified,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 50.

[48] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 5:353.

[49] Quoted in Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Manual (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999), 153. For an overview of Spurgeon’s Christ-centered emphasis in preaching, consult pp. 151–62.

[50] This is not to be confused with Christomonism (think Barth). Nettles says, “[Spurgeon’s] focus on Christ, however, did not arise from immaturity of understanding or imbalance in his perception, but from a reasoned synthesis of biblical knowledge. For all of his emphasis on Christ he was nonetheless, and consequently, fully Trinitarian in all that he spoke and wrote.” Living by Revealed Truth (Ross-Shire, UK: Mentor, 2013), 166.

[51] Spurgeon, “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” in Forgotten College Addresses, 168.

[52] “We conceive that the blood of Christ was of an infinite value, but that the intention of the death of Christ, never was the salvation of all men; for if Christ had designed the salvation of all men, we hold that all men would have been saved. We believe that the intention of Christ’s death is just equal to its effects; and therefore I start this morning by announcing what I regard to be a self-evident truth, that whatever was the intention of Jesus Christ in coming into the world, that intention most certainly shall be fulfilled.” C. H. Spurgeon, “The Mission of the Son of Man,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London; Glasgow: Passmore & Alabaster; James Paul; George John Stevenson; George Gallie, 1858), 314.

[53] C. H. Spurgeon, “Other Sheep and One Flock,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 29 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1883), 190.

[54] C. H. Spurgeon, “Election No Discouragement to Seeking Souls,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 10 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1864), 73–84.

[55] Spurgeon, “Election No Discouragement to Seeking Souls,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, 10:82.

[56] Spurgeon, “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” in Forgotten College Addresses, 165.

[57] Spurgeon, “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” in Forgotten College Addresses, 164.

[58] Sinclair Ferguson, “Chapter 28: Doxology,” in Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 388.

[59] Spurgeon, “Preaching the Doctrines of Grace,” in Forgotten College Addresses, 164.

[60] C. H. Spurgeon, “Effects of Sound Doctrine,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 6 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 304.

[61] Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, 12–13.

[62] J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961, repr.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 107.

[63] See The Westminster Confession of Faith, 3:1.

[64] C.H. Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner: How to Lead Sinners to the Savior (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 15.

[65] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Lost Silver Piece,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 17 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 32.

[66] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, 2:179-80.

[67] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, 2:180. Along these lines, he considered that conversions to Christ are God’s seal upon one’s ministerial calling. He believed this because he held that conversion is the sovereign work of God. When the Lord converts a sinner under one’s preaching, it serves as a kind of confirmation among men that the Spirit’s grace and power are indeed upon a man to preach the gospel.

[68] Spurgeon once quipped that “the highest praise he ever received had been the words of a critic: ‘Here is a man who has not moved one inch forward in all his ministry and at the close of the 19th Century is teaching the theology of the first Century and in Newington Butts is proclaiming the doctrines of Nazareth and Jerusalem current 1,800 years ago.’ ‘Those words,’ Spurgeon declared, ‘pleased me.’” Geoff Thomas, “The Preacher’s Progress,” in Tim Curnow et al, A Marvelous Ministry: How the All-Around Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Speaks to us Today (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993), 58.

[69] The entire context of Spurgeon’s remark is worth noting, as he deals with objections to preaching the doctrines of grace. “At the very announcement of the text some will be ready to say, ‘Why preach upon so profound a doctrine as election?’ I answer, because it is in God’s word, and whatever is in the Word of God is to be preached. ‘But some truths ought to be kept back from the people,’ you will say, ‘lest they should make an ill use thereof.’ That is Popish doctrine, it was upon that very theory that the priests kept back the Bible from the people, they did not give it to them lest they should misuse it. ‘But are not some doctrines dangerous?’ Not if they are true and rightly handled. Truth is never dangerous, it is error and reticence that are fraught with peril. ‘But do not men abuse the doctrines of grace?’ I grant you that they do; but if we destroyed everything that men misuse, we should have nothing left. Are there to be no ropes because some fools will hang themselves? and must cutlery be discarded and denounced because there are some who will use dangerous weapons for the destruction of their adversaries? Decidedly not. Besides all this, remember that men do read the Scriptures and think about these doctrines, and therefore often make mistakes about them; who then shall set them right if we, who preach the Word, hold our tongues about the matter?” C. H. Spurgeon, “Election: Its Defences and Evidences,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 51 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1905), 49. In another place, he said, “In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon election, because they could not make it what they call a ‘practical’ discourse. I believe they have erred from the truth therein. Whatever God has revealed, he has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse: for ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable’ for some purpose of spiritual usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free-will discourse—that we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical free-grace discourse: and free-grace practice is the best practice, when the true doctrines of God’s immutable love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners.” C. H. Spurgeon, “Election,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 311.

[70] C. H. Spurgeon, “Human Responsibility,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1858), 237.

[71] Dallimore writes, “When he came to London, Spurgeon looked upon his ministry as that of a reformer—he was laboring to bring men back to the truths they had left. The generality of the Protestant ministers were basically evangelical, but their preaching was very short on doctrine, and he felt himself largely alone in the theological system he held and declared. In sermon after sermon during his first years in London he asserted the doctrines of human depravity and divine election, and he did so with strong emphasis and much instruction.” Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 67.

[72] Spurgeon, “Effects of Sound Doctrine,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 6:301–302.

[73] This expression was utilized repeatedly by Spurgeon. See, for example, his sermons “Comfort and Constancy,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 260; “Paul’s Sermon before Felix,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London; Glasgow: Passmore & Alabaster; James Paul; George John Stevenson; George Gallie, 1858), 51; “No Compromise,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 34 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1888), 559. See also Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 1986), 46–47.

[74] Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 67.

[75] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, 2:23–25.

[76] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, 1:190–92.

[77] Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, 2:24.

[78] For a survey of Spurgeon’s preaching of the five points specifically, see Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, 635–50.

[79] Joseph A. Pipa Jr., “Puritan Preaching,” in The Practical Calvinist: An Introduction to the Presbyterian and Reformed Heritage, ed. Peter A. Lillback (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2002), 165.

[80] Pipa Jr., “Puritan Preaching,” in The Practical Calvinist, 175. Beeke and Jones comment, “Puritan preaching aimed at people with a middle-school vocabulary, but that does not mean it failed to cover the great theological terms of the Bible, such as justification and sanctification. Plainness does not sacrifice rich doctrinal content; rather, such terms, the Puritans said, must be periodically defined by the preacher. Both obscurity and eloquence must be avoided in favor of communicating God’s Word so that anyone can understand it.” Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 690. For a more thorough explanation of plain preaching, see Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 689–97.

[81] Spurgeon put it picturesquely: “Some brethren put the food up so high that the poor sheep cannot possibly feed upon it. I have thought, as I have listened to our eloquent friends, that they imagined that our Lord had said, “Feed my camelopards.” None but giraffes could reach the food when placed in so lofty a rack. Christ says, “Feed my sheep,” place the food among them, put it close to them.” C. H. Spurgeon, “‘Feed My Sheep,’” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 56 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1910), 406.

[82] Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 194.

[83] On addressing targeted groups of hearers, see William Perkins, The Arte of Prophecying, or, A Treatise Concerning the Sacred and Onely True Manner and Methode of Preaching First Written in Latine.… (London: Felix Kyngston for E. E., 1607), 2:645ff. Spurgeon was bighearted toward children; while he periodically addressed them directly in his sermons, he generally preached with children in mind: “We are specially exhorted to feed them because they are so likely to be overlooked. I am afraid our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk, who, nevertheless, may be as true Christians as the older ones. Blessed is he that can so speak as to be understanded of a child!” C. H. Spurgeon, “‘Feed My Lambs:’ A Sabbath-School Sermon,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 28 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1882), 569.

[84] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 39–40.

[85] Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Preaching to the Heart,” in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, 112.

[86] Spurgeon, Autobiography, 101.

[87] The Directory for the Publick Worship of God, “The Directory of Publick Worship,” Reformed Theology at A Puritan’s Mind, accessed April 29, 2020, See Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 198.

[88] See Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 25–29. Beeke is drawing from Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (London: Banner of Truth, 2006), 277–78.

[89] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Word a Sword,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 34 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1888), 117.

[90]See William S. Plumer, Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety. Online version in the public domain.

[91] Archibald Alexander, the great Princetonian scholar known for his powerful, experiential preaching, said, “It is much to be regretted that this accurate discrimination in preaching has gone so much out of use in our times. It is but seldom that we hear a discourse from the pulpit which is calculated to afford much aid to Christians in ascertaining their own true character; of which will serve to detect the hypocrite and formalist, and drive them from all their false refuges. In the best days of the reformed churches, such discriminating delineation of character, by the light of Scripture, formed an important part of almost every sermon. But we are now more attentive to the rules of rhetoric than to the marks of true religion. How do Owen, Flavel, Boston, and Erskine abound in marks of distinction between the true and false professor? And the most distinguished preachers of our own country,—the Mathers, Shepards, Stoddards, Edwardses, as also the Blairs, Tennents, Davies, and Dickinsons, were wise in so dividing the word of truth, that all might receive their portion in due season.” Quoted in Beeke, Living for God’s Glory, 264–265.

[92] See Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, 62.

[93] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Sieve,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 20 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 106.

[94] C. H. Spurgeon, “Unknown Depths and Heights,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 53 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 583.

[95] Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth, 292.

[96] See Jeremy Walker, The Brokenhearted Evangelist (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).

[97] James Montgomery Boice, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 24.

[98] Alan Maben, “Are You Sure You Like Spurgeon?” Banner of Truth, Nov. 16, 2001;

[99] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 8 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862), 460.]