lain H. Murray: THE FORGOTTEN SPURGEON. London: The Banner of Truth Trust. 1966, 224 pp. This review reprinted from the Presbyterian Guardian by permission.
One of the greatest enemies of the church of Jesus Christ is ignorance. It is a sad thing when ignorance is found in the pulpit, and the minister does not know the true gospel of Christ. It is a sad thing also when ignorance is found in the pew, and it very often is found there. Men come to church Sunday after Sunday and seem to have little concern about the church and the gospel. Ask the average churchgoer what the gospel is and the answer may very likely be vague and uncertain.
One of the best means of dispelling ignorance both in the pulpit and the pew is through the reading of good books. We cannot have a discerning ministry unless it is a scholarly ministry, and we cannot have men in the pews who are well informed unless they take the trouble to read worthwhile books. But is there ignorance in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church? Do not we all know what the gospel is and why our church came into being? Do we? Is there not a very real danger that the grand particularities of the Reformed faith wiII be glossed over as unimportant in our desire for fellowship with other, less Reformed groups? Are we really as zealous about biblical preaching and teaching as we should be? Or, is there not the danger that we may have lost our first love? Where is the crusading zeal that characterized the founding of our church? These are important questions that we do well to ponder.
Spurgeon, Contender for the Faith
A book has recently appeared which should be read by every member of our denomination. It should not be read once, but several times, and in addition, certain passages should frequently be meditated upon. It is not a biography of Spurgeon, but it is a study (written in an interesting and absorbing style) of three of the doctrinal controversies through which Spurgeon had to go. lain Murray, the minister of Crave Chapel, Camberwell, England has written a fascinating book with the title, The Forgotten Spurgeon. One does not have to read far before he realizes that the life of Spurgeon paralleled in many respects that of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Both were devoted contenders for the faith, and both walked a lonely road as, indeed, all must walk who wish to be faithful to the Lord. And those who opposed them were middle-of-the-road and compromising Christians.
There arc always those who never see the danger in a wrong position until it is too late, and then they have no desire to do anything about it. On the other hand, they are always willing to criticize defenders of the faith, such as Spurgeon and Machen. There is no doubt about it; not only was Spurgeon a great preacher; he was also a great man who, out of love to his Lord, was willing to walk a lonely path. And time has shown, just as it has shown in the case of Dr. Machen, that he was right; and that the majority of easy going moderates was (as is always the case) in the wrong.
Spurgeon the Preacher
Spurgeon was a great preacher. Although this particular book is not a study of Spurgeon as a preacher, nevertheless enough is said and sufficient quotations are given to show that God used great preaching to bring blessing to England. And what is great preaching? It is preaching that is biblical; it seeks to expound a text and allow the text to speak for itself. It is conducted by a man who enters the pulpit from a secret place of prayer and study and whose soul is on fire with the solemn truth to be preached.
When God removes the preaching of his Word from his church, it is a tragic day indeed. We may well ask whether in our day there is any great preaching, or whether we have relegated preaching to a subordinate position, and allowed the trivialities of life to usurp its place. Has God given to us today a famine of hearing the Word of God? To read this book will bring us face to face with some solemn questions. Cannot we learn from Spurgeon?
Cannot we abandon some of the frivolities in which we engage, and pray for a revival of preaching? In all the welter of panaceas that are today offered to solve the ills of the church, what about the preaching of the whole counsel of God? Do we pray and strive for a revival of biblical preaching? Is it not time that we stop being so concerned about communicating the gospel and become concerned about preaching it? The man who has the unction of the Holy Spirit and can preach is a man who will have no difficulty with communication. We can learn much from Spurgeon.
Spurgeon and Calvinism
Today there is a great deal of talk about evangelicalism. Should not aU evangelicals unite and forget their differences? If they present a united front to the world, they can amalgamate Calvinism and Arminianism and find a workable synthesis to offer the world. We hear this kind of talk today, and it was present in Spurgeon’s day also. One thing may be said for it. It will not work. The practical synthesis for which some strive is really but another name for Arminianism. Calvinism is the gospel, and if we ever seek to compromise the gospel and give to the sinner the idea that there is some hope in himself we are unfaithful to the Lord.
On this point Spurgeon was adamant. Spurgeon simply preached the whole counsel of God, and exalted Jesus Christ as the Savior. He never gave men the impression that God had done all that he could to save them, but that now it was up to them to make the final decision. Rather than that he proclaimed a powerful gospel of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. How wrong it is to compromise the gospel for the sake of winning the favor of man! “If there be but one stitch,” said Spurgeon, “in the celestial robe of our righteousness, which we ourselves are to put in, we are lost.” That is the blessed truth that needs to be proclaimed in our day.
Read this book, and give it to as many of your friends as you can. Perhaps God may give to us that love of truth which is so necessary if we are to live and proclaim and believe, in the poet’s words:
Grace taught my soul to pray, Grace made my eyes o’erflow, ‘Tis grace that kept me to this day And will not let me go.
EDWARD J. YOUNG
This book can be purchased from Reformed Fellowship, lnc.
Dr. E.J. Young is Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (As this issue of TORCH AND TRUMPET went to press it was learned that Dr. Young had suddenly passed away Wednesday, February 14, 1968.)
William Law: A SERIOUS CALL TO A DEVOUT AND HOLY LIFE, 313 pp. Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., 1966 (price $1.95)
Written in 1728, this spiritual classic challenges professing Christians to the practice of true godliness in accordance with their confession. It has been a bleSSing to large numbers for two and a half centuries. Law was a High-church Anglican quite removed in his sympathies from the Methodist and Evangelical movements. Yet among such groups his influence has often been the greatest. Written in a vigorous and compelling style, despite its age, this volume emphasizes the need of prayer, the cultivation of true humility (especially since those who praise this virtue most highly are often sadly deficient in it), and the proper use of this world’s goods. Especially his evaluation of what passed for Christian education in the schools of those years is pertinent for us today. Although issue can be taken with some of statements made, the careful reader will profit much from these pages. Spiritual life among us would be greatly deepened, if individuals and families would take time to read books such as this.
PETER Y. DE JONG
Dr. Peter Y. De Jong is Professor of Practical Theology at Calvin Seminary.