Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spurgeon and Finney vs. The Founders

Brother Bob Ross is probably the world's leading authority on the life and ministry of the famed London pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon. In this posting, Brother Bob reveals what Spurgeon thought of American evangelist Charles G. Finney.

Given the animosity that modern hybrid/hyper/neo Calvinists have toward Finney, The Founders may not like what Brother Bob has revealed.

Just be nice and don't tell them, OK? The truth hurts.



Bob to Charles:

There are a number of "strawmen" (or distorted images) which the Top Heavy Hybrid Calvinists use in their aberrant "system" of proselytism.

For example, they like to make a "whipping boy" out of Charles G. Finney (1792-1895) in regard to the use of public invitations, often alleging that Finney originated the use of public invitations.

We have shown on this blog that this was not the case, as for instance the item about the use of invitations as far back as in the case of 15-year old John L. Dagg in 1809 (AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF REV. JOHN L. DAGG, pages 9, 10), long before Finney even became a Christian. [See the Flyswatter at Sunday, May 07, 2006 9:16:55 PM, PUBLIC INVITATION USED IN 1809 DURING THE LIFE OF BAPTIST LEADER, J. L. DAGG].

While Finney's theology was -- to say the least -- "unorthodox" by Presbyterian standards, he was nevertheless instrumental in his evangelism to awakening thousands of the 19th century Presbyterians -- who had been baptized as babies on the pretext of being regenerate "elect covenant children" -- to their unsaved condition, and large numbers made professions of faith in Christ.

In contrast to the "strawman" which the Hybrids have created about Finney, I want to call attention to the evaluation of the late evangelist by C. H. Spurgeon -- which illustrates another difference between Hybrids such as the Founders and Spurgeon:


From: The Sword and the Trowel, 1884, page 439:

"Notices of Books"

Charles G. Finney: an Autobiography.
London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Among the prominent Evangelists of the present century, the name of Mr. Finney, the President of Oberlin College, in America, occupied a foremost place. Trained for the bar, he showed much of the close grip of the lawyer in his preaching. He was emphatically a preacher to conscience, and many will remember the searching appeals with which he drove home upon men the conviction of their accountability to God. He died in 1875, at the age of 83, having, according to his light, served his God and his generation right faithfully. This is an interesting and inspiring autobiography. We do not often agree with Mr. Finney's theology, but that is not the question now before us.

The following by Spurgeon on Finney is from Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students, Second Series, "On Conversion As Our Aim," page 185:

I am not an admirer of the peculiar views of Mr. Finney, but I have no doubt that he was useful to many; and his power lay in his use of clear arguments. Many who knew his fame were greatly disappointed at first hearing him, because he used few beauties of speech and was as calm and dry as a book of Euclid; but he was exactly adapted to a certain order of minds, and they were convinced and convicted by his forcible reasoning.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Bob's Comment:

Many of the "Reformed" Baptists and Presbyterians of our time often write about Charles G. Finney as if he were something on the order of the "Armourbearer of the Antichrist." During Finney's day, a stringent form of ultra "Calvinism" was so dominant that evangelism and soul-winning were just about "dead" in Finney's area of the country. The "baby baptizers" were promoting the delusion of the early "regeneration" of babies which were born to Christians, and consequently the pedo churches were filled with members who were allegedly "covenant children" and had received "regeneration" in early infancy before they were believers in Christ -- such as taught in the "Reformed" theologians such as Shedd, Berkhof, Frame, and their disciples.

Finney, himself a Presbyterian, recognized the "dead" spiritual state of the pedo churches, and his evangelistic approach so "shook up" the pedos that multitudes of them were aroused with concern for their lost condition, and so a great number made professions of faith in Christ under Finney's preaching.

Finney has since been excoriated by various pedo and "Reformed" theologians, including the allegation that he was the creator of "the invitation system," which is far from the truth. He was several years into his evangelistic ministry before he even started using -- at Rochester in 1830 -- what began to be called "the anxious seat," where people under conviction would come forward and be seated for prayer and instruction.

Finney said, "A few days after the conversion of Mrs. M________, I made a call, I think for the first time, upon all that class of persons whose convictions were so ripe that they were willing to renounce their sins and give themselves to God, to come forward to certain seats which I requested to be vacated, and offer themselves up to God, while we made them subjects of prayer." (Autobiography, page 289).

Like Spurgeon, I am not an admirer of the theoretical theological views set forth in Finney's "Lectures on Systematic Theology," but his evangelistic methods are not deserving of all the unjust characterizations with which we frequently meet in critiques by some "Reformed" writers.
As for his methods, they did not differ greatly from Mr. Spurgeon's own after-service methods and Spurgeon's use of what was called "the inquiry room."

In Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students," he says:

Show them their danger, and warn them to escape from the wrath to come. This done, we must return to invitation, and set before the awakened mind the rich provisions of infinite grace which are freely presented to the sons of men. In our Master’s name we must give the invitation, crying, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Do not be deterred from this, my brethren, by those ultra-Calvinistic theologians who say, “You may instruct and warn the ungodly, but you must not invite or entreat them.”

And why not? “Because they are dead sinners, and it is therefore absurd to invite them, since they cannot come.”

Wherefore then may we warn or instruct them? The argument is so strong, if it be strong at all, that it sweeps away all modes of appeal to sinners, and they alone are logical who, after they have preached to the saints, sit down and say, “The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” . . . . .

Let the two methods be set side by side as to practical result, and it will be seen that those who never exhort sinners are seldom winners of souls to any great extent, but they maintain their churches by converts from other systems [I. e. proselytism].

I have even heard them say, “Oh, yes, the Methodists and Revivalists are beating the hedges, but we shall catch many of the birds.”

If I harbored such a mean thought I should be ashamed to express it. A system which cannot touch the outside world, but must leave arousing and converting work to others, whom it judges to be unsound, writes its own condemnation. . . .

Do not close a single sermon without addressing the ungodly, . . . aim distinctly at immediate conversions;ain  . . . speak personally both with the concerned and the unconcerned, and be yourself doubly upon the watch to address individuals.. . . . again and again remind them that every true gospel sermon leaves them worse if it does not make them better. Their unbelief is a daily, hourly sin; never let them infer from your teaching that they are to be pitied for continuing to make God a liar by rejecting his Son. . . . .

In addition to this, hold numerous inquirers’ meetings, at which the addresses shall be all intended to assist the troubled and guide the perplexed, and with these intermingle fervent prayers for the individuals present, and short testimonies from recent converts and others.
As an open confession of Christ is continually mentioned in connection with saving faith, it is your wisdom to make it easy for believers who are as yet following Jesus by night to come forward and avow their allegiance to him. [From Lectures to My Students, Second Series, pages 186, 187, 190].

In the light of what Spurgeon says here, is it any wonder that he said, "I have been treated somewhat severely by that class of brethren who are exceedingly strong in their Calvinism. Many suspect me of being a great heretic. . . . .The Calvinism of some men is not the Calvinism of John Calvin, nor the Calvinism of the Puritans, much less the Christianity of God." (New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 5, page 368).


At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 7:34:00 PM, Blogger peter lumpkins said...

Brother Charles,

Mr Ross never ceases to amaze me with his grasp of Spurgeon. Thank you for allowing him the opportunity to offset Spurgeon's kidnapping by those who would pillage his theology.

Have a great evening. With that, I am...


At Wednesday, September 20, 2006 10:04:00 AM, Blogger volfan007 said...

bob ross,

God bless you. what good insights and great things you have shared with us. thanks.

if you will remember, i met you at your aunts funeral in sardis, tn. i preached mrs. ethel's funeral. she was really proud of you, and she talked of you often.


At Thursday, September 21, 2006 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob and Charles

Great stuff! I will use this information in class this semester. I just wish I hadn't already taken Tom Nettles' class. I would enjoy watching his face turn red!

SBTS Student

At Thursday, September 21, 2006 11:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

volfan007 said...

if you will remember, i met you at your aunts funeral in sardis, tn. i preached mrs. ethel's funeral.

Yes, I remember you. That would have been in November of 1991 that we met in Sardis. My Aunt Ethel was very dear to us, and she was highly regarded as the "source" for all the current information about the Ross family. After her death, we were at a loss for trying to keep up with most of relatives. She was always an encouragement to me spiritually, and really thought much too highly of me -- "above that which is written." She is greatly missed, and I think of her often.

At Thursday, September 21, 2006 4:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Upcoming Debate at Lynchburg"

Bob to Charles:

As you, Charles, have no doubt observed, the Founders, James White, and Jerry Falwell are all announcing the upcoming October 16 debate on "Calvinism" on their websites. http://www.liberty.edu/academics/religion/seminary/index.cfm?PID=9419&NewsID=89

Unfortunately, I do expect that Creedal Calvinism will be properly represented pro or con by either side in this debate.

I believe C. H. Spurgeon made a disclaimer of the type of "Calvinism" represented by White and Ascol when he said:

"The Calvinism of some men is not the Calvinism of John Calvin, nor the Calvinism of the Puritans . . .".
-- New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 5, pages 365, 366.

I am contemplating publishing via email a similar Disclaimer to remind the Caners and Jerry Falwell that James White and Tom Ascol do not speak for Creedal or "Confessional Calvinism."

Rather, they represent a post-seventeenth century "Hybrid" form of "Calvinism" -- which is a mixture of the Confessions on the work of the Spirit with the Pedobaptists' and Hardshells' heresy of "regeneration before faith."

This Hybridism has been
advocated by post-17th century Pedobaptist theologians (baby baptizers) who follow the so-called "ordo salutis" which places "regeneration" prior to faith -- which alleges that one is "born again before faith."

As we have noted on this blog, this is the "Calvinism" represented by writers such as W. G. T. Shedd, Louis Berkhof, John Frame, and R. C. Sproul -- all "baby regenerationists" who teach that "covenant children" are "regenerated" in infancy (or even prior to birth) and that adults are "regenerated before faith in Christ."

This is not the view advocated by Southern Baptist scholars, such as B. H. Carroll, for example, who presented the following Syllogism on page 287 of Volume 10, Part I on The Gospels, An Interpretation of the English Bible:

(1) Every one born of God has the right be called a child of God.

(2) But no one has the right until he believes in Jesus.

(3) Therefore the new birth is not completed without faith."


Dr. Carroll, Founder of Southwestern Bapatist Theological Seminary, taught that --

Conviction, repentance and faith are the CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF REGENERATION.
-- Sermons and Life Sketch of B. H. Carroll, page 179.

John Calvin himself taught:

"Finally it is by faith that we are born again, become the sons of God, obtain eternal life,and Christ dwells in us."  (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:13).

As you pointed out, Charles, on this blog on April 17, 2006;

In the book Theology of the Reformers (Broadman, 1988), Dr. Timothy George, the five-point Calvinist dean of the Beeson School of Divinity, says that John Calvin taught that faith precedes regeneration, which is exactly what the BF&M teaches and what Southern Baptists believe.

"This being placed into Christ (insitio in Christo) occurs in regeneration which, Calvin was careful to point out, follows from faith as the result: Since faith receives Christ, it leads us to the possession of all His benefits. Repentance too, which is part of regeneration, is the consequence of faith." (225-226).

I'm sure we will have more to say on this in days ahead.

At Thursday, September 21, 2006 9:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think it is significant to correct the following line:

Unfortunately, I do expect that Creedal Calvinism will be properly represented pro or con by either side in this debate.

Should read:

Unfortunately, I do not expect that Creedal Calvinism will be properly represented pro or con by either side in this debate.

At Thursday, September 21, 2006 10:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Bob to Charles:

I do not recall, Charles, that our Georgia Kudzu pastor, Scott Morgan, ever revealed on this blog that he was saved under "Arminian" preaching.

I was delighted to see him making the "good confession" on the Founders' blog, as follows:

The doctrines of Grace help one to see the Gospel with Clarity and there is a connectedness that makes 1 Cor 15:1-8 and other passages even clearer. I am not saying at all that one has to be a whatever pointer to be a Christian but if a Pastor claims to be a Gospel Preacher but rejects four out of the five points then his view of the gospel is very" Cloudy". I was converted under an arminian preacher because it is God who saves! Hope this helps a little.

10:51 AM, September 19, 2006

There is the plain confession that Brother Scott was "saved" by God "under an arminian preacher."

Yet, it seems to be a passion nowadays for Brother Scott to "kick" against "Arminians," and he appears to be really "hot" about his former Pastor, Brother Johnny Hunt.

Although Scott believes he was predestinated to be saved under an "Amrinian" and to serve in ministry at the church pastored by Brother Hunt, it seems Scott's predestination was routed so that he is now foreordained to complain against the ministries under which he was formerly blessed.

Brother Scott must have been one of the "elect of the elect" to get saved under an "Arminian preacher"!

At least he has one thing in common with Spurgeon who was also saved under the substitute preaching of an Arminian Methodist layman.

See Spurgeon's conversion at --


At Monday, September 25, 2006 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I respectfully disagree with much of what you are saying on this blog.

You've made a blog on the internet to sling mud, and in many cases, to write false thoughts on Reformed theology; and you've done it like a dirty politician. The way you talk about people (people that you should love as your brothers in Christ), you do much to lessen the impact of anything you have to say.

And about Mohler being the reason for the decline in baptisms in the SBC, how foolish is that? Wow.

A comment on a blog will never do, but please know that you're understanding of Reformed Theology is both immature and contradictory. People who really are 'Calvinists' and not hyper-Calvinists cannot help but share the Gospel with others. It is their joy to do that. And, because they believe in the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, they are obedient to God's command to share the Good News here and to the ends of the earth.


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