Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spurgeon & the inquiry room


A Hybrid Calvinist can always say something like, "Spurgeon never did it this way or that way." Then he can rattle off a caricature of some sort which he classifies as an "Altar Call," "Public Appeal," "Invitation System," "Decisionism," "Easy Believism," or whatever term he chooses which would disparage the basic fundamental elements of a scriptual call for unbelievers to believe on Christ and openly confess Him.

One of those caricatures of the public invitation can be found in a number of prominent Hybrid Calvinists, including Pedo Iain Murray and Flounders' Founder Ernest Reisinger.

Iain Murray:

"The invitation system . . . institutes a condition of salvation which Christ never appointed" (The Invitation System, page 26).

Ernest Reisinger:

"It conveys to sinners a condition of salvation that is not in the Bible and was never practiced or approved by Christ and His apostles" (Today's Evangelism, page 76).

That statement within itself would be sufficient to damn both Murray and Reisinger forever, if their eternal salvation was dependent upon telling the truth.

I have been acquainted with the vast number of pastors, evangelists, and theologians for the past 50 years plus, and I have never heard or read a single one of them teach that the "invitation system" either "institutes" or "conveys" the idea that walking an aisle during an invitaton is a "condition of salvation."

One could use the same type of "reasoning" as Murray and Reisinger use in arriving at their caricature in regard to the practice of one of their icons, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. According to Murray's biography of Lloyd-Jones, he used a system in dealing with souls which might be called "The vestry system."

Lloyd-Jones' system was to have interested persons to line-up outside of his office and a Deacon would announce them to "the Doctor" one-by-one as each one's turn arrived. Lloyd-Jones would inform his hearers "that he was available in the vestry and would be privileged to speak further with anyone" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Fight of Faith, Volume 2, page 139).

Is that the post-message "system" which "Christ appointed" and was "practiced or approved by Christ and His apostles"? Did they welcome their hearers to line-up outside their offices? Would it be fair and appropriate to say this system was a "condition of salvation" at Westminster Chapel during Martyn Lloyd-Jones' ministry there?

Now, C. H. Spurgeon's system was the "inquiry room." Inquirers would be invited to go into some nearby room or hall where they could be dealt with according to their need.

But the Hybrid Calvinist cannot escape the fact that Spurgeon's practice would be unacceptable to today's Hybrids. Spurgeon pressed for an immediate faith-decision in response to the Gospel, and his "altar call" was the use of what was called the "inquiry room."

Here is some of the material which I have researched in Spurgeon sources in rebuttal of some of Mr. Murray's criticisms of "modern revivalism," or the evangelism of which he disapproves.

As for the use of the inquiry room, Spurgeon himself used the inquiry room, as demonstrated, for instance, at the great meeting of six to seven thousand at the Tabernacle which was reported in the 1865 issue The Sword and the Trowel, page 128.

After the singing of "Just As I Am," Spurgeon gave an address specifically to the "UNSAVED," and when the service concluded, another hymn was sung, prayer was offered, and the "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. . . ."

Also, the Evangelists who composed the Metropolitan Tabernacle's Society of Evangelists and sponsored by Spurgeon used the inquiry room.

In Spurgeon's Address on May 3,1881 at the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Pastors' College Association, the President referred to his Evangelists and their use of the inquiry room:

"You must also have faith in God in the form of expectancy. Our brethren [J. Manton] Smith and [W. Y.] Fullerton [of Spurgeon's own Society of Evangelists] would not have a blessing on their work if they did not expect the blessing to come; but expecting the blessing, they provide an inquiry-room, and persons to look after the converts. Shall we commence farming and provide no barn? In many a village the Lord has saved souls under the preaching of the gospel, but the minister has never said, 'I shall be in the vestry on such and such an evening to see inquirers,' or, 'I shall stop after the sermon to talk with the anxious.' He has never given the people a chance of telling what the Lord has done for them, and if he should hear that a dozen people have been convinced of sin, he would be surprised, and fear that they were hypocrites. We have not so learned Christ. We look to take fish in our nets, and to reap harvests in our fields. Is it so with you, my brethren? Let it be more so. 'Open thy mouth wide,' saith the Lord, 'and I will fill it.' So pray and so preach that if there are no conversions you will be astonished, amazed, and broken-hearted. Look for the salvation of your hearers as much as the angel who will sound the last trump will look for the waking of the dead. Believe your own doctrine! Believe your own Savior! Believe in the Holy Ghost who dwells in you! For thus shall you see your hearts' desire, and God shall be glorified." [The Sword and the Trowel, 1881, pages 378, 379].

In the Preface to the 1882 The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon referred to the Evangelists whom he sponsored and who made use of the inquiry room in their work. He said:

"The Evangelists are doing splendid service: the Lord has been with them in every place to which they have gone. Able and venerable ministers who have attended their meetings bear joyful testimony to the power which attends their addresses; and hundreds of professed converts remain in their wake, witnessing to the power of the gospel which was preached by them. It is on my heart to add to their number one, if not two more. The evangelist in India, Mr. Harry Brown, is doing well; and of the two brethren in Spain the same is true."

In the November issue of 1882, in a report on the work of the same Evangelists at Bath, Spurgeon's editorial column says, "Large congregations gather night after night at every service, and many come forward to enquire more full after 'this way'" (page 599).

Shortly thereafter, in the December issue of 1882, Spurgeon's editorial column carried even further remarks about the work of Spurgeon's Evangelists at Bath (page 641):

"EVANGELISTS. Later reports of Messrs. Smith and Fullerton's services at Bath are even more encouraging than those we published last mouth.Mr. Baillie, the Pastor of Manvers-street Baptist Church, writes:

'We are indeed grateful for the visit of these two brethren. Mr. Smith inspires our enthusiasm with his rousing music, and his buoyant confidence. It is, indeed, a means of grace to see him, and to hear his remarks on Christianity in home-life. I had an opportunity of hearing him at the meeting for women last Wednesday afternoon, and I am sure his words were very refreshing to the hundreds of mothers who were gathered to listen. The simple force and the striking pointedness of Mr. Fullerton's gospel addresses make some of them quite models for regular ministers. I have heard him each evening, and I could pray so earnestly, Lord, let that shaft strike! and many were praying in like manner. With such clear, simple, yet faithful preaching, backed up by earnest prayer, I was not surprised when I saw so many anxious souls at our after meetings.'"

Furthermore, later on in the 1884 issue of The Sword and the Trowel on page 297, in a report on the work of Spurgeon's own Society of Evangelists and their meetings, it is said that "there has been no such thing as an attempt to get up an excitement or to force persons into the enquiry rooms."

Obviously, then, Spurgeon was not critical of the inquiry room as conducted by Mr. Smith and Mr. Fullerton, whom he sponsored.

In an earlier issue in 1884, page 93, a report says, "We have had very much of the Lord's presence, many Christians have been quickened, and many souls saved. We have heard of nearly a hundred who have been in the enquiry-rooms, and we are every day hearing of others who did not wait to be spoken with."

Spurgeon was an ardent supporter and defender of D. L. Moody, his message, and his method which used the inquiry room. In the very same 1882 volume of The Sword and the Trowel, from which Mr. Iain Murray lifted a quote from Spurgeon about "modern revivalism," we find the following about Mr. Moody:

"Mr. Moody's Sabbath at the Tabernacle must be recorded, for we are greatly obliged to him for undertaking the service in the midst of his pressing engagements. The enormous crowds that gathered created a great and serious danger which would have driven most men to despair, but our deacon, Mr. Murrell, faced the difficulty and pushed through it. Extraordinary precautions had to be taken to preserve life and limb. If you have twelve thousand people all eager to get into a building which cannot hold more than six thousand, what can you do? Our seat-holders in the evening most commendably lent their tickets to others, and thus gave a second set of people the opportunity of hearing the great evangelist; but this, of course, did not lessen the heavy pressure of the eager multitude. We see clear evidence that if Messrs. Moody and Sankey again visit London no building will be sufficiently capacious to hold the crowds who will gather to hear them. Their hold upon the multitude has by no means diminished. May the Lord send a great blessing upon their efforts, and may London, on this occasion, have a double portion of the resulting benefit."

In Spurgeon's editorial column in his magazine of June 1884, page 294, he said of Moody:

"It has been the Editor's great joy to take part on two occasions in Mr. Moody's work in Croydon. On Friday, May 16, all the students went over to Croydon, and formed part of an enormous multitude who gathered to hear a sermon from their President. We are more and more impressed with a sense of the remarkable power which rests upon the beloved Moody. His words are plain and fresh from his heart, and a special influence from on high goes therewith both to saint and sinner. It is a happy thing for London that such a shower of blessing is falling upon it."

At Mr. Spurgeon's Jubilee Meetings in 1884, Mr. Moody was one of the featured speakers. The Sword and the Trowel of July 1884, page 373 says:

"After another hymn, the Pastor assured Mr. D. L. Moody of the intense affection felt for him by the whole assembly, and the beloved Evangelist, whom the Lord has so greatly honored, told of his indebtedness to the printed sermons and other works of the Pastor. Mr. Moody's reception was a burst of vehement love, and intense admiration."

Here is how Spurgeon introduced the message by Mr. Moody at the Jubilee:

"I want you now to hear me a moment while I say that the brother who is now about to speak, Mr. Moody, is one whom we all love. He is not only one whom we all love, but he is evidently one whom God loves. We feel devoutly grateful to Almighty God for raising him up, and for sending him to England to preach the gospel to such great numbers with such plainness and power. We shall continue to pray for him when he has gone home. Among the things we shall pray for will be that he may come back again. I might quote the language of an old Scotch song with regard to Prince Charlie, 'Bonnie Moody's gang awa. Will ye no come back again? Better loved ye canna' be, Will ye no come back again?' Now let us give him as good a cheer as ever we can when he stands up to speak." [Mr. Spurgeon's Jubilee, page 8]

In the very same editorial in the June 1884 magazine, Mr. Spurgeon specifically comments on the Evangelists of his own Society of Evangelists:

"EVANGELISTS. One of our helpers, who has attended almost all Messrs. Smith and Fullerton's services at the Tabernacle, has sent us an interesting summary of the meetings; but as Tabernacle friends have been upon the spot we will only say in print that we rejoice in the evident blessing which has rested upon the labors of these two admirable servants of God. The attendance upon the services has not been all that the brethren looked for, but the cases of blessing are many. In all places to which they have gone these brethren have won the confidence and love of those with whom they have labored, and none have spoken against them but those who know nothing of them. It is with regret that we have seen in a Baptist newspaper certain criticisms upon our Evangelists. We cannot conceive that any useful purpose can be served by such strictures except that they will be overruled to drawing greater attention to these useful workers. We expect men of the world to find fault with well-intended endeavors to draw the masses to hear the gospel, but we hardly looked for it from brethren in Christ. When an assault comes from them, it is peculiarly trying, for one is apt to say, 'It was not an enemy; then I could have borne it.' Yet, as the motive and intent of the criticisms were, no doubt, excellent, the best way is to learn all we can from them, and think no more of them. It will be long before all good men will be agreed upon modes of operation; almost as long, we fear, before all earnest men will cease from hard speeches; we must, therefore, get on as well as we can with our brethren, and love them none the less for being a little acid now and then. The extraordinary liberties which some are taking with all the proprieties may well drive our older friends into their growleries: we feel half inclined to go into our own when the wind is in the east, and when we have just read something specially outrageous."

In the light of these materials, it is evident that Spurgeon's remark lifted by Mr. Murray about "modern revivalism" was not directed toward those evangelistic practices and evangelists against which Mr. Murray often writes. The quotation is absolutely disingenuous as rendering any support to the anti-evangelism and anti-Moodyism espoused by Mr. Murray and his disciples who borrow the quote from him.

It is again to be remembered that while Mr. Murray misappropriates Spurgeon in many matters, he seems oblivious to some other very appropriate remarks of Spurgeon which Murray would be wise to heed. Spurgeon denounced (1) the idea of the regeneration of children in their infancy and (2) the baptism of infants, whereas Mr. Murray promotes these as being valid belief and practices of "Christianity." To our knowledge, the only "evangelism" and "invitations" promoted by Mr. Murray are those related to the baptism of children who are supposedly "regenerated" in infancy as beneficiaries of their relationship to the supposed "covenant" propagated by Pedobaptists.


It is shocking to think that there are ministers who have no method whatever for meeting the anxious, and if they do see here and there one, it is because of the courage of the seeker, and not because of the earnestness of the pastor. From the very first you should appoint frequent and regular seasons for seeing all who are seeking after Christ, and you should continually invite such to come and speak with you. 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].


"God be thanked that Moody and Sankey ever came among our churches".... "We ne’er shall look upon his like again. He is a king of men... God bless him wherever he may be, and send him back again to us in due time!"The Sword and The Trowel Magazine, 1876, pg. 524; and 1884, pg. 555.


"I have read your sermons for twenty-five years, and what has cheered my heart has been that in them was no uncertain sound... You are never going to die." — Metropolitan Tabernacle: It's History and Work, and Mr. Spurgeon's JUBILEE Services, pg. 9.

Perhaps no two men were more responsible for influencing conservative, evangelical Christianity in the last half of the nineteenth century and even throughout the twentieth century than C. H. Spurgeon and D. L. Moody. "Their works do follow them" is certainly true of these two evangels of the plain, simple, and unfettered Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ.


At Friday, May 23, 2008 9:39:00 PM, Blogger Charles said...

Brother Bob, Hello!

You wrote, I have been acquainted with the vast number of pastors, evangelists, and theologians for the past 50 years plus, and I have never heard or read a single one of them teach that the "invitation system" either "institutes" or "conveys" the idea that walking an aisle during an invitaton is a "condition of salvation."

Reformed Calvinists are "hyper" in their use of making a straw man and then tearing it down. It merely demonstrates their lack of knowledge.

I challenged Steve Camp over two years ago to put up or shut up on the same subject. Do you think he stepped up? Not a chance!

Great article, Brother Bob.


At Friday, May 23, 2008 11:15:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Charles said:

I challenged Steve Camp over two years ago to put up or shut up on the same subject. Do you think he stepped up? Not a chance!

Steve is perhaps too busy "talking the talk" to do any "stepping up" on that issue.

I happened to notice here lately that he did manage to cause Timmy Brister to shut down a thread! So Steve's "talk" has had some effect, but only on a rather insignificant matter -- "Rick Warren's" endorsement of Tom Ascol's resolution. Tom will need more than that to get his resolution passed over the Yarnell-Barber resolution.


Post a Comment

<< Home