Sunday, 21 February 2010

Spurgeon (a Baptist) on Law & Gospel

This is post #2 in a series compiled to disprove the assertion of an erstwhile Lutheran who has 'swum the Tiber' that the distinction between Law and Gospel is a peculiarly Lutheran doctrine, with the none too veiled insinuation that it is actually sectarian.
By providing quotations from non-Lutherans on the distinction between Law and Gospel that are in harmony with Lutheran teaching, I hope to show that this is not a sectarian doctrine but one which is subscribed by notable theologians and preachers across confessional boundaries and down through the centuries. This evidence, I contend, shows not only that the doctrine has ample claim to be considered catholic, but even more importantly it points to the fcat that many have considered the doctrine to be drawn from scripture, the only infallible rule of faith in the church.

Charles Spurgeon was, of course, the great Baptist preacher of 19th century London. There are some important doctrines on which Lutherans would disagree with Spurgeon, but we can at least approve his understanding of the distinction between Law and Gospel as it is on display here in one of his early sermons. Spurgeon's preaching had great power and drew masses of people who otherwise might have neglected church attendance. It was also later the subject of a book by a Lutheran theologian well-known for the ability of his preaching to reach the masses in post-war Germany and beyond, Helmut Thielicke.

"There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel; others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify the law and the gospel, and preach neither law nor gospel; and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved. Such men do err. On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law; that it has certain commands in it, by obedience to which, men are meritoriously saved; such men err from the truth, and understand it not. A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by observance of the law, and partly by God's grace, men are saved. These men understand not the truth, and are false teachers."
(A Sermon (No. 37) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 26, 1855, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.)


Matthias said...

Spurgeon was a Reformed Baptist which means he was also a Calvinist,which makes these comments pertinent from that perspective.sadly those who Spurgeon refers to as "Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved" can be often said of many Protestants,especially in the Church of Christ and the Baptists.The problem becomes one of taboos to be observed-no drinking,swearing or smoking ,or dancing.
I'm a deformed baptist, neither Calvinist nor anti-liturgical and certainly in the "theology of the cross' stream,and barrack for Collingwood.(Now there's a team that know about law!)

acroamaticus said...

A 'Deformed Baptist', I like it!

Yes, the imposition of laws which scripture does not prescribe has been all too common in popular evangelicalism. Of course, the Pope does the same thing, too. Two sides of the same coin - failure to distinguich Law and Gospel.

Matthias said...

Anecdote about Ch sPURGEON. he was travelling with some Anglican bishops in a train and they all toom out their pipes . Spurgeon looked aghast and said "GENTLEMEN PLEASE" and they put their pipes away. Minutes later Spurgeon brings out a very large cigar. Uhm wonder what Pietists/wowsers would make of that