Compiled by Spencer D Gear PhD
A cessationist has the theological view that the gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture was completed. Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London (where Spurgeon preached for 38 years) states:
We believe … that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is very plainly taught in God’s Word, so plainly, in fact, that the opposite view has only seriously appeared in the last 100 years or so.1
A continuationist is a person who is convinced from Scripture that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, as in 1 Cor 12-14, continue into the twenty-first century. Sam Storms explained:
All the gifts of the Spirit, whether tongues or teaching, prophecy or mercy, healing or helping, were given (among other reasons) for the edification, building up, encouraging, instructing, consoling, and sanctifying of the body of Christ .2
C Peter Wagner’s definition of a spiritual gift is …
a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the body.3
1. Spurgeon the cessationist
“I have little confidence in those persons who speak of having received direct revelations from the Lord, as though He appeared otherwise than by and through the Gospel. His Word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh Revelation to you or me is quite needless. To do so would be to put a dishonor upon the perfection of that Word”.4
C. H. Spurgeon the prominent 19th century Baptist preacher and pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, for 38 years, wrote that …
those gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which are departed from us.… As you would certainly inquire whether you had the gifts of healing and miracle-working, if such gifts were now given to believers, much more should you inquire whether you have those more permanent gifts of the Spirit which are this day open to you all, by the which you shall work no physical miracle, but shall achieve spiritual wonders of the grander sort.5
In my preparation of an article on my homepage, Truth Challenge – ‘Cessationists through Church History’,6 I engaged in email discussion with my friend, the late Philip Powell of Christian Witness Ministries.7
2. Spurgeon the contuationist
Philip alerted me to several incidents in the life of Spurgeon which indicate he was not a consistent cessationist. Spurgeon provided these descriptions and an explanation, as supplied by Philip Powell (I have located the following quotes from other sources):
Spurgeon (1834-92) was the prominent Baptist preacher in England during the 19th century, who spoke of a “sermon at Exeter Hall in which he suddenly broke off from his subject and pointed in a certain direction. This incident is told in C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography (1856-1878), vol 3, compiled by his wife and private secretary:
“At the Monday evening prayer-meeting … Mr. Spurgeon related [an]
Incident [from] the sermon at Exeter Hall, in which he suddenly broke off from his subject, and, pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for; you have stolen them from you,’ employer.” At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Mr.Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” The preacher had drawn the bow at a venture, but the arrow struck the target for which God intended it, and the startled hearer was, in that singular way, probably saved from committing a greater crime’.8
“I remember quite well, and the subject of the story is most probably present in this congregation, that a very singular conversion was wrought at New Park Street Chapel. A man, who had been accustomed to go to a gin-palace to fetch in gin for his Sunday evening’s drinking, saw a crowd round the door of the chapel, he looked in, and forced his way to the top of the gallery stairs. Just then, I looked in the direction in which he stood,—I do not know why I did so, but I remarked that there might be a man in the gallery who had come in there with no very good motive, for even then he had a gin-bottle in his pocket. The singularity of the expression struck the man, and being startled because the preacher so exactly described him, he listened attentively to the warnings which followed; the Word reached his heart, the grace of God met with him, he became converted, and he is walking humbly in the fear of God.”
Spurgeon gave further examples of his word of knowledge ministry:
“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, `There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for four pence!’
“A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, `Do you know Mr Spurgeon?’ `Yes,’ replied the man `I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place: Mr Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir.
“I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul’”.9
2.1 How does Spurgeon explain this revelatory ministry?
“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, `Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, `The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.’”10
How are we to conclude concerning C H Spurgeon’s ministry in London in the 19th century? Was he a cessationist (he makes statements to confirm this view) or a continuationist – his experience supports the latter view.
Sam Storms makes a helpful conclusion:
My opinion is that this is a not uncommon example of what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Spurgeon exercised the gift of prophecy (or some might say the word of knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8). He did not label it as such, but that does not alter the reality of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. This information could not be found by Spurgeon from reading the Scripture. But surely we do not undermine the latter’s sufficiency by acknowledging that it was God who “revealed” this insight to him. If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise! 11
See Sam Storms (2014); Why I Am a Continuationist. (The Gospel Coalition).
For an opposing view, see Thomas Schreiner (2014), Why I Am a Cessationist (The Gospel Coalition).
1The Sword & Trowel 2011, issue 2. Cessationism — Proving Charismatic Gifts have Ceased (online). Available at: http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Christian-Article/Cessationism-Proving-Charismatic-Gifts-have-Ceased-Sword-and-Trowel-Magazine (Accessed 21 August 2018).
2 Sam Storms 2014. Why I Am a Continuationist. The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-am-a-continuationist/ (Accessed 21 August 2018).
3 C Peter Wagner 2017. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (rev ed). Bloomington, Minnesota: Chosen Books, ch 2.
4 Spurgeon from sermon No. 3336, ‘Beauty for Ashes’, published 9 January 1913, delivered by C H Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington UK). It also is available in C H Spurgeon, The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 59: Sermons 3335-3386.
5 “Receiving the Holy Ghost”, sermon no.1790, vol. 30, Year 1884, p. 386, available at: http://adrianwarnock.com/2004/05/what-would-c-h-spurgeon-have-made-of-charismatics/ (Accessed 20 June 2010).
6 Spencer D Gear 2010, Truth Challenge (online), Cessationists through Church History, 20 June. Available at: https://spencer.gear.dyndns.org/2010/06/20/cessationism-through-church-history/ (Accessed 29 July 2018).
8 C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol 3, Chapter 60, p. 59, Prince of Preachers (online). Available at: http://www.princeofpreachers.org/uploads/4/8/6/5/48652749/chs_autobiography_vol_3.pdf#page=4&zoom=auto,-37,552. (Accessed 29 July 2018).
9 C H Spurgeon 1899, The Autobiography, vol. 2, pp226-227.
10 Charles H. Spurgeon 1973. Autobiography: The Full Harvest , 1860-1892, vol 2. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p. 60.
11 Sam Storms 2013. When a Cessationist Prophesies, or, What are We to Make of Charles Spurgeon? (online), 25 October. Available at: https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/when-a-cessationist-prophesies–or–what-are-we-to-make-of-charles-spurgeon (Accessed 21 August 2018).
Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2018