Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spurgeon and Altar Calls


Spurgeon's "Inquiry Room" -- Forerunner
to the Public Invitation or Altar Call

Since there are many "anti-invitationists" using the Internet for bogging and web sites, I have noticed a number of articles which repeat the anti-invitationism arguments of Pedobaptist ministers such as the late Martyn Lloyd Jones and his one-time assistant, Iain Murray.

The latest blog I have seen to use Pedobaptist Lloyd-Jones against invitations is Pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Oklahoma, whom we have had occasion to refute on some matters in the past. What Bro. Burleson fails to point out, however, is that Reformed Pedobaptists believe elect babies get "regenerated" in infancy, if not even before they are born, so Pedobaptists seldom would have any use for public invitations when lost sinners are called upon to accept (or believe on) Christ as Saviour and "come forward" to make a public profession of faith. This is the circumstance in which many, if not most, Baptists have been brought to Christ, according to my observation. In fact, many of those who later opposed inivitations admit that they were saved in just such a circumstance as the public invitation or what some call "the altar call."

Often, misleading information about C. H. Spurgeon on the "inquiry room" and invitations is given, especially by Iain Murray and those who follow his writings, as if to add some "weight" to anti-invitationism. While it is true that C. H. Spurgeon did indeed advise against the abusive use of the "inquiry room," as noted by Murray in some writings, there is no source in Spurgeon's sermons and writings which indicate that he opposed its proper use.

No, Spurgeon did not oppose the use of the "inquiry room," for he used it himself. He obviously simply wanted to protect against the abuses of it.

Pedo-regenerationist Murray, the "father" of most of the modern anti-invitationalism, was perhaps the first in our time to express criticism of the "inquiry room." But Murray fails to appropriately use quotations from C. H. Spurgeon in his booklet on "The Invitation System" to properly represent Spurgeon. I have articles on a website refuting Mr. Murray and other opponents of the public invitation. See Selected Writings of Bob Ross.

SPURGEON USED THE INQUIRY ROOM

Yes, Spurgeon himself used the "inquiry room" at the Tabernacle, and while he wanted to guard against the abuse of it, he never opposed its use, nor did he oppose "the invitation system," as has been falsely alleged. Spurgeon approved of any reasonable method which tended to bring men to repentance and public confession of Christ as Saviour.

For example, Spurgeon supported the revival work in Great Britain by D. L. Moody, and he approved of Moody's methods. He had Moody to conduct evangelistic meetings at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and Spurgeon said of Moody's methods:

"I believe that it is a great help in bringing people to DECISION when Mr. Moody asks those to STAND UP who wish to be prayed for. Anything that tends to separate you from the ungodly around you, is good for you." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1897, page 516).

Awhile back I wrote an article entitled --
"Was C. H. Spurgeon the Innovator of the Modern Public or Church Invitation?"

The point was that Spurgeon's methods in essence developed into the public invitation used by evangelists and churches of the 20th century.

Here are a few excerpts from that article --

"C. H. Spurgeon earnestly exhorted those who had accepted Christ as their Saviour to come forward amongst his people and avow their attachment to His person and name." - The Sword & The Trowel Magazine, 1865, pg. 70.

SPURGEON and the "CALVINISTS"

Spurgeon was "bucking" the system of the "high Calvinists" of the times by this type of innovation as well as by his preaching the "simple Gospel" and promising "immediate salvation" to those who believed it. The hypers, hybrids, and ultras of that age did not appreciate Spurgeon's emphasis.

The leading pastor among the Calvinistic Baptists of the time, James Wells, who was dubbed "King James," said he had his "doubts" as to "the divine reality of his [Spurgeon's] conversion," and alleged that Spurgeon was "deceiving others with the deception wherewith he himself is deceived" (CHS Autobiography, Vol. 2, pages 38, 39).

When Spurgeon first came to London in late 1853, the Baptist preachers such as Wells and the churches of the Park Street Chapel variety were mostly either hyper-Calvinists or ultra-Calvinists, or something on the order of what the "Hybrid Calvinists" are and are becoming in our time. The killing effects of "mere doctrine" and too great an emphasis upon "the Calvinist system" had virtually killed evangelistic efforts in England. Spurgeon's success in preaching the "simple Gospel" made him the object of resentment, jealousy, criticism, and even cynical ridicule by some of the Baptists, especially some of the respected leaders among the professed "Calvinists." In a letter to his family, Spurgeon complained of the "Calvinism" which prevailed at the church at that time and how "It is the Calvinism they want."

“December __, 1853.
“My Dear Father, . . . . . . The London people are rather higher in Calvinism than I am; but I have succeeded in bringing one church to my own views, and will trust, with Divine assistance, to do the same with another. I am a Calvinist; I love what someone called ‘glorious Calvinism,’ but ‘Hyperism’ is too hot-spiced for my palate. . . . It is Calvinism they want in London, and any Arminian preaching will not be endured.”

Spurgeon not only literally knocked out the windows of the dingy old New Park Street Chapel to let in the air, he began to strike blow-after-blow at what he often called the "false Calvinism" of his "ultraists" brethren. Some of his very worst enemies were those who loudly proclaimed their "Calvinism." Spurgeon became so "put out" with these types, he said, "I do not hesitate to say, that Phariseeism is mixed with Hyper-Calvinism more than with any other sect in the world" (New Park Street Pulpit, Year 1860, #336 — Struggles of Conscience, page 403).

One of the innovations which Spurgeon put to good use, out of the practical necessity for the hearing of confessions of Christ by those responding to his evangelistic preaching, was the use of inquiry rooms. D. L. Moody, before he ever started preaching, went to London to hear Spurgeon for the first time in 1867. Moody became Spurgeon's devoted disciple and ardent protege. In this regard, Moody was indeed a sort of "Timothy" in relation to C. H. Spurgeon. Moody -- who later started his own preaching ministry -- adopted many of the means and methods he had observed in Spurgeon's implementing the work of the Gospel, including starting a Bible Institute similar to Spurgeon's Pastor's college, a colportage or publishing work similar to Spurgeon's, preaching to the masses in large halls as did Spurgeon, and using the inquiry room to deal with converts, as did Spurgeon. The latter method, in its essential elements, became the forerunner of what we today call the "public invitation."

This method did not derive from Charles G. Finney's "anxious seat," as Lloyd-Jones and his disciples allege, for the inquiry room was not on that order at all. Moody never even heard Finney preach, nor saw the "anxious seat" used in a Finney revival meeting. By 1860, Finney could not even travel, much less hold revival meetings, and that was long before Moody even started preaching.

But Moody did hear Spurgeon, followed Spurgeon around to hear him, read everything published by Spurgeon, and he saw how Spurgeon dealt with souls. Moody adopted Spurgeon's methods.

Here is an example of Spurgeon's method, later adopted by D. L. Moody, demonstrated in the year 1865. This is from the March 1865 issue of The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon's magazine, page 128, during a high period of intense, ongoing revival, with many being converted to Christ, and a fervent spirit abounding in the church:

>>NOTICES
[Reported by George Rogers, Principal of Spurgeon's Pastors' College]The second proposed special prayer meeting, mentioned in our last number, was held in the Metropolitan Tabernacle on the evening of the 6th February. . . .Between six and seven thousand persons assembled -- not to witness a theatrical exhibition -- not to hear an eloquent preacher -- not to witness a select and diversified display of platform oratory -- but for a prayer meeting! This was a sight that could not fail to gladden the hearts of good men, and prepare them for the higher enjoyment that followed. It was evident that the impression of the former meeting had not passed away, but it influence had become more widely extended, as the attendance was not only more numerous, but some hundreds were unable to gain admission. No extraordinary efforts were made to provide for the meeting; no sensational speakers were engaged; no novelty was either thought or desired. The ministers of the new fraternity, as on the former occasion, in the spirit of prayer, and confident reliance upon the Spirit of God, quietly and solemnly came upon the platform. Several of the ministers who took part in the proceedings, and two of them were students yet in the college; but all were of one mind and of one heart. Mr. Spurgeon, after a few words of gratitude and joy for the return of such an occasion, gave out some verses of the 100th Psalm, that all might join in a song of praise. He then suggested that their next duty was to give thanks for the blessing which had attended the former meeting of the same kind, the effect of which, upon his own people, was that ninety-three [93] had set down on the previous evening, for the first time at the table of the Lord. Mr. Marshall and Mr. Barnard presented the incense of praise. Mr. Spurgeon then gave out the hymn, commencing with -- "Just as I am, Without one plea."

This was a prelude to confession of sin, which, after a silent confession of two or three minutes of each for himself, was offered in the name of all by Mr. Clark. Some verses of the hymn, "I will praise Thee every day," were then sung, after which petitions for the revival of the Churches were presented by Mr. Warren and Mr. Offord: those of the latter were preceded by a touching and powerful appeal to the hearts of believers.

Now came the direct reference to the unsaved. This was introduced by a most earnest and awakening address by Mr. Spurgeon, and was responded to in prayer by Mr. Stott and Mr. Varley. A hymn followed, commencing thus, "Once a sinner near despair."

Mr. Teal and Mr. Burton then prayed, and Mr. Spurgeon closed with prayer. INQUIRERS were then encouraged to retire to the lecture hall, where ministers and elders would be glad to converse with them'; and MANY RESPONDED TO THE INVITATION.

This was one of the most sober, the most impressive, and, we should judge, the most effective meetings we have ever witnessed. . . .
>>

Here observe that all of the essential elements which characterize a sane, sound, Baptist public invitation are present: (1) Preaching, (2) Prayer, (3) Encouragement to respond, and (4) and Invitation to be conversed with. Even the great invitation hymn, Just As I Am, was used by Mr. Spurgeon at this meeting, from his hymnbook, Our Own Hymnbook, #546.

Later, in the same article, we read:
"His own ministry had begun in a storm of opposition, but he had been enabled to outlive it, and to obtain a position of comparative quiet in the denomination to which his Church belonged . . . He had to remind the Church how greatly God had blessed the preaching of the Gospel in their midst during the past year. Conversions had been frequent in the Sunday-schools, in the Bible and Catechumen Classes; and never had the Word come with greater power to the great congregation. The Church had received by Baptism 381 members; . . . the present number of members on the Church books, 2,881."

Moody's "model" was Spurgeon, not Finney. Moody and Sankey in Great Britain [The Sword and the Trowel, February 1876, pages 84-87]

When D. L. Moody was engaged in evangelistic work, he held meetings in Scotland and in England. His work in Scotland began rather hopelessly, with but a scant few -- "only eight persons were in attendance." However, by "hanging in there" and "fighting the good fight of faith," Moody's work gradually gained ground and finally became extraordinarily productive, with multitudes eventually saved. In England the professed conversions were not quite so numerous, primarily because so many of the recent enthusiastic converts were filling up the seats in the meeting place, therefore many of the unconverted were thereby "kept out" -- not purposefully, but circumstantially. Also, Spurgeon cites the lack of significant interest in the meetings by the PEDOBAPTIST English churches, due to their own peculiar evangelistic coldness toward enthusiastic evangelistic preaching. After all, they claimed that their children had inherited "regeneration" in early infancy and did not need the type of conversion preached by either Moody or Spurgeon!

Here is an excerpt of how Spurgeon describes the Moody-Sankey evangelistic efforts:

>>
The work in Edinburgh was repeated in many other towns of Scotland such as Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, etc., and with similar results, the people going so far as to tolerate Mr. Sankey's "unsanctified musical machine." The campaign in Ireland which succeeded was still more remarkable when we take into account the national prejudices of the population. In Dublin the Great Exhibition building was hired for the meetings as being the only place in the city capable of accommodating the multitudes who came to hear. This success of the evangelists in the Emerald Isle was a fine testimony to the power of the simple gospel; for while no fierce denunciations of the apostate church were heard from the platform, the converts came alike from the ranks of Romanists as well as from the houses of the Protestants. The Romish leaders raised the voice of warning, but to no purpose; and their machinations were aided by a club of atheists, who penetrated into the inquiry rooms to endeavor to turn the whole into controversy. [Note: These Romanists and Protestants had supposedly "born again" when they were babies. The were probably hearing the Gospel for the first time, and many were being truly born again! -- Bob]". . . . This man was coming upon the stage one evening to sing a comic song, when a verse of a Sunday School hymn, which he had learned years ago, flashed through his mind, producing so deep an impression that he was unable to drive it away. He attempted to sing his song but failed, and on retiring from the stage was summarily dismissed by the manager. For three weeks he plunged into the deepest dissipation, being scarcely sober for a single hour all that time. During this debauch he wrote a comedy, which he finished off with a burlesque upon Messrs. Moody and Sankey, who had just then arrived in Liverpool; and in order to give greater point to his satire, he attended one of the services in Victoria Hall, to hear them for himself. While thus watching for something of which to make sport upon the comic stage, the Holy Spirit so impressed the truth upon his heart that he remained to the after-meeting for inquirers, was instructed in the way of his duty, and that very night found peace with God. He has now entered into training for the purpose of becoming a missionary."
>>

From another one of my articles, here are some excerpts:

Spurgeon indeed often made negative comments which were intended to either expose or guard against abuses of methods and practices, but those remarks do not convey the total image of Spurgeon on such matters. He likewise often commented in a negative vain about abuses associated even with Calvinistic theology, baptism, the name "Baptist," church attendance and membership, the use of music, miscellaneous financial schemes, and similar activities, but such remarks must not be isolated if one is to avoid an erroneous impression of Spurgeon. For example, though he often rebuked "worldly" methods as to church finance schemes, his own church conducted a Bazaar to raise money for the construction of the Tabernacle, which some might view as contradictory to what he sometimes said against things of this sort. The fact is, as to the matter of methods in regard to professions of faith, it is stated in The Sword and The Trowel, January 1890, page 45: "That which is admirable with one congregation may not suit another."

Spurgeon was for any method which incorporated the Gospel message in relation to accepting and confessing Christ as Savior.

SPURGEON-SPONSORED EVANGELISTS
USED THE INQUIRY ROOM

In the 1890 bound volume of The Sword and the Trowel magazine, there are reports of Tabernacle-sponsored evangelistic meetings which demonstrate that Spurgeon favored an evangelism which sought to obtain immediate professions of faith by various ways and means. Spurgeon and the Tabernacle Church actually sponsored Evangelists who conducted special evangelistic campaigns or missions. The foremost two were J. Manton Smith and W. Y. Fullerton. There are quite a number of reports in this 1890 volume of their meetings which refer to the "decisions" made, the "after-meetings," and the "inquirers" who went into the "inquiry rooms." A report appeared in the January 1889 Sword & Trowel which is illustrative of the work done by the Metropolitan Tabernacle-sponsored Evangelists.

>>
The hopes that we expressed last month respecting Messrs. Fullerton and Smith services at the Tabernacle were more than realized before the mission closed. The numbers in attendance increased nightly, until, at the closing service, not only was the Tabernacle densely packed, but overflow meetings were held in three rooms in the College, and some thousands of persons were unable to gain admission. All who had professed to find the Saviour were asked to meet the workers in the lecture-hall, at the close of the public services, and very soon the hall was quite full. Those who were present will not soon forget the scene when, in response to Mr. Fullerton's request, some hundreds of hands were held up in token of blessing received during the mission. . . . Messrs. Fullerton and Smith came over from Bloomsbury for the first half-hour, and gave wise and weighty counsels to those who had been brought to decision. . . .Mr. Chamberlain sang and spoke, and then asked any who had been brought to decision during the mission just to rise, and declare that fact. In less than half-an-hour, no less than fifty-one persons bore oral testimony to what the Lord had done for them at the special services, and many more would have spoken if there had been time.

The converts were of all ages, and of both sexes; there were 'young men and maidens, old men and children,' praising the name of the Lord for the great things done for them.. . . .Let us pray that the work of revival may continue to spread until thousands more are won for the Saviour.
>>

In the February 1889 issue of S & T, Spurgeon published a number of comments from Pastors and Churches in regard to meetings held by the Tabernacle-sponsored Evangelists. Here are a couple of those:

"Had you been present at the large enquirers' meeting which we held in the lecture-hall last night, your heart would have been rejoiced to hear the testimonies of God's power to save; and many steady, matured Christians added their witness to the fresh power and renewed consecration which they had experienced during the mission."

"Seldom have we known a finer blending of the instructive with the earnestly exhorting to immediate decision than was nightly listened to from Mr. Fullerton. . . . Best of all, great spiritual results have followed. No fewer than 150 persons went into the enquiry-room. Many of these have avowed their conversion to God, their newly-found faith in Jesus. Amongst these some are the children of the officers and members of the church, some restored backsliders, and others are men and women who for many, many year have never gone inside a house of God. . . . souls have been born again, and the Saviour has been greatly honored."

While there are some today who are trying to utilize a few remarks by Spurgeon which were obviously focusing upon real or possible abuses of evangelistic methods, you will most likely not find such reports as the foregoing, from Spurgeon's own magazine, called to the readers' attention. They demonstrate that Spurgeon favored a very aggressive evangelism, one that pressed for immediate response, decision, and public confession.

Unlike the modern Reformed pedo-regenerationists, such as Mr. Murray, who are apparently inactive in aggressive evangelistic missions such as those by Smith and Fullerton, Baptists such as Spurgeon did not have the practice of infant baptism and baby "regeneration" to fall back upon to make "disciples" and church members, and so they used the Biblical type of evangelism of preaching the Gospel to those who would give it a hearing, be convicted of sin, come forth publicly to acknowledge faith in Christ, and confess Him as Savior.

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