The Ghostly Tale of Spurgeon and the Séance of 1928 by Christian George

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[The original link to this article can be found here. For all things Spurgeon, please visit The Spurgeon Center.]

On October 21, 1928, the ghost of Charles Spurgeon was raised from the dead. Or so the clairvoyant claimed. In a series of séances supervised by Canadian surgeon and paranormal researcher Thomas Glen Hamilton, the “entity” of the late Victorian evangelist made his presence known several times to a group of hand-clasped gatherers. According to Hamilton’s published report, Spurgeon even requested a hymn to be sung.

Three years later, Spurgeon’s ghost “returned” to preach a sermon on revival. His text—preached from beyond the grave—was Isaiah 52:10: “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

In a pitch-dark room on April 26, 1931, the entranced medium closed her eyes and scribbled the words (allegedly spoken by Spurgeon): “The main instrumental cause of a great revival must be the bold, faithful, fearless preaching of the truth of the Divine Spirit from the Lord our God.”

Raising Spurgeon from the Grave

Spurgeon often suffered from “depression of spirit.” At times the preacher’s emotions peaked; at times they plummeted. “I am much tossed up and down,” Spurgeon said, “and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.” The majority of his life was forged on the “anvil of affliction.”

Yet God raised Spurgeon from the grave on more than one occasion. Like in 1856, when seven people died at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and Spurgeon almost quit the ministry. Or when Spurgeon came under attack in the media and fell into great anxiety.

In the late 1880s, Spurgeon couldn’t even open his hand because rheumatoid gout had frozen his fingers closed. Each of these dark seasons in his life prepared Spurgeon to say, “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.”

“Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”

Suffering was the secret of Spurgeon’s ministry because it enabled him to emphathize with others whose spirits were low. In other words, God never let Spurgeon suffer from having never to suffer.

For the Christian, sinking spirits produce “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). What is hope without suffering? How would we identify light without darkness? God often uses our own darkness to show others the Light of World. He uses our own weakness to make others strong. Hope must always be extracted from affliction, for, as the Puritans used to say, only in the valley do we receive the vision.

Spiritual Revival Cannot Be Conjured

Did the medium really raise Spurgeon’s spirit from the grave in 1928? Sorry for the Halloween mythbust, but no. As it turns out, she had memorized a few cherrypicked paragraphs from Spurgeon’s 1858 sermon “The Great Revival.”

Ironically, the point of Spurgeon’s sermon, spoken through the spiritualist, was that true revival cannot be conjured up by our clever tactics, innovative inventions, or even by preaching great sermons. “Do not imagine,” Spurgeon said, “when you hear of a sermon being made useful, that it was the sermon itself that did the work.”

“If men were not such idiots as to doubt God, they would never sink so low as to believe in spiritualism.”

Spiritual revival cannot be summoned; it must be sent. From first to last, spiritual awakening is the work of God—designed, manufactured, and delivered by the One who specializes in resurrection. Spurgeon said:

“Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my down castings, and get the victory through it; and so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing.”

In 1887, the Downgrade Controversy plummetted Spurgeon into a stressful spiral that resulted in his betrayal, abandonment, depression, illness, and eventual death. His wife, Susannah, claimed that the controversy killed him prematurely at the age of 57. Yet even in that midnight moment, Spurgeon saw a light flickering in the future.

Spurgeon prophesied, “I am quite willing to be eaten by dogs for the next fifty years. But the more distant future shall vindicate me.”

Spurgeon’s Spirit Still Speaks

Did Spurgeon believe in ghosts? Yes and no. He acknowledged the strange return of Samuel’s spirit (1 Samuel 28). But Spurgeon also denounced the “pretended communion” of spiritualism gaining popularly in London. He believed séances capitalized on the suffering of the bereft and took advantage of those who lost loved ones.

The spookiest thing about the séances of the 1920s and 30s is that if the medium had kept quoting from Spurgeon’s sermon, she would have uttered the following words:

“My soul has been made exceedingly full of happiness, by the tidings of a great revival of religion throughout the United States.”

The clairvoyant was correct. Spurgeon’s spirit has returned through the legacies of the Spurgeon LibrarySpurgeon’s College, and Spurgeons Children’s Charity, which celebrated their 150th anniversary this year and continues to offer light, love, and compassion to families throughout the United Kingdom.

Christians have always lived with the forward-looking hope that God will not leave his children in the dark. As John saw from his Patmos cave, one day God will “wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). True hope is not found through incantations or spiritual gimmicks. It’s not found in self-help remedies or sola bootsrapa doctrines. Instead, our hope derives from the triumphant Christ who stormed the gates of Hell, put the devil on the defensive, and declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

On this Halloween, keep in mind that the enemy is afraid of you! You are making noises beneath his bed. You are hiding in his closet.

Like Abel who “still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4), Spurgeon’s spirit still speaks. So treat yourself to one of his sermons and see how God raises your own spirit from the grave.

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Volume 1 and 2 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon can be purchased in Standard or Collector’s Editions.

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Why “Be Strong” or “Buck Up” is the Wrong Response to Suffering…

In the context of talking about people in difficult and ongoing situations, someone once asked me: “Why is the simple instruction to ‘be strong’ or ‘buck up’ at best insufficient and at worst harmful?”

When I heard this question, I was immediately struck 1) by my strong feelings on the subject and 2) by my natural ability to answer the question with insight and nuance. This was presumably in large part because I’ve dealt with significant and ongoing health issues (both physical and psychological) in recent years that have forced me to stare the painful realities of life full in the face. While on this journey, I’ve had my share of both helpful and unhelpful responses from people. Concurrently, I’ve had numerous opportunities to deeply connect with other people who are suffering, even when their suffering is quite different than my own. All that to say, I guess it makes sense that when I was asked the above-mentioned question, I felt both passionate and somewhat-competent in writing up the following reply…

Telling someone who is suffering to “Buck up!” or “Be strong!” shuts down conversation by shaming the person, instead of providing a safe place for healthy dialogue and compassionate understanding. It says that you are not willing to try to understand the other person’s situation, that you’re not willing to walk with them through this trial.

It overestimates the power of the human will and emotions. It assumes that if only the person tried harder or thought more positively, things would be better. It assumes that the problem is with the person’s effort or attitude. This ends up isolating the sufferer from resources and people that may be necessary for their situation.

It guilts people about things which are largely not under their control, instead of freeing them with knowledge that some things are not their fault, while providing a safe and empowering environment in which to make choices over those things that they can manage.

It downplays or denies the reality of the difficult parts of the human experience and the validity of unpleasant emotions. This means, of course, that such persons will be of little or no help in actually dealing with such experiences.

Basically, telling someone to “be strong” or “buck up” shuts down conversation and relationship, isolates the sufferer, guilts and shames over that which is out of the person’s control, may prevent the sufferer from getting the help they need, and denies the reality of the full human experience.

– Hannah

(Picture from: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1398985/Sheryl-Sandberg-Real-empathy-is-sometimes-not-insisting-that-it-will-be-okay-but)

Dressed in His Righteousness Alone: The Sanctification Debate, Round 3

Dressed in His Righteousness Alone

We cannot just speak of the sanctification in the theological realm and ignore the pastoral implications of our conclusions. To do so is to divorce orthodoxy and orthpraxy and dismiss the impact that this teaching has on our people. It’s not just the textbooks that will be impacted when we get this wrong. It’s the covenant child, the clinging doubter, the weary wife, or the aging senior who will bear the true weight if we err.

So if we think pastorally about what’s being said in the New Law/Sola Fide Debate we realize that where this debate leads us is in two distinct directions.

Let’s suppose that a pastor notices that there is a lack of fruit among his parishioners. Worship may be attended, but the worshippers seem disinterested. They may be apathetic to chatechisis or have begrudgingly serve their fellow members. There could be internal strife or division among brothers with no desire to reconcile. And yes, there could be greivous sin; even sin that must be disciplined.

What is a pastor to do?

He could whip them with the Law. He could demand their obedience to God’s righteous standards. He could plead and fight and remind them of their Christian duty. He may stand up every Lord’s Day and preach hellfire and damnation. He could repeat until he’s red faced that “Whoever loves me will obey my commandments” from that sacred platform.

But I’ve been there  I’ve been in that pew and felt the weight of it all. It just made me feel guilty. I didn’t obey because I loved God, I obeyed because I was guilty. I obeyed because, at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure of my salvation.

However, he won’t see true fruit because he’s not working on the root. The root of sanctification is built on the foundation of our Union with Christ. If we want to see fruit of true faith, we must preach the Gospel and pray for the Spirit to work in them.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

The mistake our New Law brothers are making is they’re making Works the basis of our “final salvation” (again this is a term that has only recently come up). Let’s take Mark Jones’ article where he talks about “ways and means”. Here’s what he says:

“Good works are not, therefore, “merely evidence of sanctity and nothing more.” They are the “way and means” that God has ordained for his children to walk to glory. If we do not walk on this path we will not be saved.”

If it sounds like that famous Norman Shepherd line “brought in by faith, kept in by faithfulness” that’s because it is. If it sounds like we’re repeating the Marrow debate it’s because we are.

Good works are not the means of sanctification, they are the evidence of it. If what Jones is putting forward is the preponderance of what the Reformed Church has held to someone didn’t tell the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism for it says

Q. 60
How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them,
and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

Q. 61
Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?

A. Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.

Q. 62
But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?

A. Because the righteousness which can stand before God’s judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Q. 63
But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?

A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.

But yes, our New Law brothers will try to argue that it is of Grace and Spirit. But this is the third time now and it sounds like they’re trying to make their Nomian doctrine fit a Reformed position.

So what will we tell our people? “Perform good works and live” or “Look to Christ”? Does Christ truly give us His righteousness imputed to us or do we only return to neutral and walk back to Sinai? Is the Law a guide for Christian living or the means by which we obtain or posses our full salvation?

In other words: is it truly “finished”? Can I tell my fellow Christians they are truly “dressed in a His righteousness alone?” Or must they return to the Law to live?

Keep Looking: A Response to Greg Morse and Desiring God

KEEP LOOKING

My parents will be the first to tell you, I can really put my foot in my mouth. I often don’t say the right thing. Often times, I can frustrate Allyson because I try to hunt for just the right words for the situation. Different people interpret words differently. My family knew that frustrated, mad, and pissed we’re all different levels. Her family will use them all interchangeably. It causes confusion.

When I read the now infamous Piper article about sanctification I was hopeful that perhaps this was just a misstatement. I’m often not clear and so want to be gracious in this area. However, yesterday evening, Greg Morse (a Desiring God affiliate) wrote again in this issue and said exactly the same thing. Taking up the topic of killing sin, Morse seems to redirect and go on a tangent:

“But what about being saved by faith alone? You’re not. You’re justified through faith alone. Final salvation comes through justification and sanctification — both initiated and sustained by God’s grace.”

The likelihood that this is two verbal slips within a week of each other isn’t coincidental. There’s not room for me to be gracious the second time around here. What’s being said is very plain. The New Law camp has invented this brand new theological term “final salvation”. One that I’ve not found anywhere in our confession or Scripture. Yes I will agree justification is not sanctification and both of those are parts of the ordo salutis. However, there is not a single category for one to be justified without also being glorified. Paul writes in Romans 8 as if justification is the declarative decision in our glorification. There is not one example of someone truly justified but does not make it to Glory. The New Law Camp would be good to not invent categories for things that have no basis in Scripture.

But while they may pay lip service to Grace and monergism, the New Law idea is simple: Justificiation is our entrance into the kingdom, but sanctification (that is our good Works) are what keep us in the kingdom. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture.This sounds like the Galatian issue all over again. What we’ve now begun in the Spirit will we continue in the flesh? By no means! But this is the position that is being placed before us.

He then quotes Heb 12:14 and 2 Thess 2:13, the two verses the New Law Camp seem to have rallied behind. Because they need a Biblical argument, they’ve found these two niche verses to prove this idea that justification can be possible without the promise of salvation. But this cannot be. Because if God is truly the Author and Finisher of my faith than one thing is certain. It’s not me. Sanctification is wrought in us when we look to our union with Christ and our justification.

Works are not the instrument by which we are sanctified. If that’s the position the New Law Camp want to run to, the arms of Douglas Willson’s Federal Vision are wide open. They are more than welcome to excuse themselves and head to Moscow. I reject any form of Christianity that says that the more you perform Good Works, the less you need of Grace. So if Mr. Morse, Mr. Dukeman, or any other want a fool proof way to fight sin, it’s very simple.

Keep looking to Jesus. Keep coming back to the sacaraments with the mind of “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.” You want to kill your pet sin? Keep reminding your flesh “I am not my own, but belomg to my faithful savior.” Keep coming back to the Wellspring that declares “if your thirsty, come to Me”

The Marrow of the Matter: The Sanctification Debate Returns

Marrow Matter

It has taken me almost 27 years, and sanctification is still a tough subject to get around. It is, in my opinion, the doctrine where the rubber meets the road. The nature of good works and their relationship to sanctification is not a new debate. The Reformed tradition has come to this dispatch box for centuries, the Marrow Controversy has not died yet. Last week, John Piper lit the powder keg again saying,  These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven”. Of course, the Reformed community came back with either push back for affirmation.

But my effort in this is not to respond to either Dr. Piper or the responses to him. This of course may seem like I am dodging the war; but I want to respond to two things I myself have seen. I want to clarify the position of the “Free Grace” boys and give some push back to my New Law brothers. I think we have a serious discussion creeping up on us, and it has the potential to teach something that is contrary to the Scriptures.

What is sanctification? According to our Confession,

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,[97] whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,[98] and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.[99] (WSC #35)

Right from the onset we must dispel some things about Sanctification. First, sanctification is a work of God’s grace. Man cannot please God apart from the Spirit’s work within him. He cannot merit for Himself any righteousness before God. The Confession leaves us no room to say that sanctification is our work. It is something that is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel tells us this when he says:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

Second, sanctification is not passive. We are truly active in sanctification. We are equipped, by God’s free grace, to truly resist sin and to live according to God’s commands. Sin has no power over the Christian insofar that he cannot resist it. The believer is certainly given a new spirit that wills and wants that which is pleasing to God. We cannot deny this from the Confession either. By God’s grace we actively obey Him, and we break off the chains of sin.

I want to be very clear in these statements. Doubtless some will throw around the dread term antinomian for what I will say. However, I am not saying that the Christian should live in a state of unrepentance and passivity. Yes of course we should put to death the deeds of the flesh and chase after righteousness. We would not disagree on this.

However, my concern arises when we begin to treat good works as either the basis for our sanctification or the instrument by which the Spirit sanctifies us. Or that the Christian has a somewhat two fold justification: one that is given to us sola gratia, sola fide and one that is taken hold of per opera bona. This is utterly foreign to the Reformed tradition. Paul is clear that those who are justified and surely glorified.  (Romans 8:31) If these good works are Spirit wrought, how then can one obtain the promise of eternal life but never take it in actuality? However our Confession teaches that through good works believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God. But none of this speaks of good works being the instrument nor is it the means by which we take possession of eternal life.

Berkhof writes that good works, “do not have the inherit value which naturally carries with it a just claim to a reward.” This is because they are Spirit-wrought, not Christian-wrought. Whatever claim we have to them, we must be very quick to remind ourselves that they God working through us.

Good works then cannot be the instrument of sanctification. It is not that we are equipped to work and are thus sanctified. To argue this is to put the cart before the horse. It makes our sanctification (and thus our final salvation) dependent on our good works meriting God’s sanctifying work.

My fear is that there is a conflation in these discussions between justification and sanctification. Our New Law brothers at best are trying to ward off against anti-nomianism. I can appreciate that. However, they do a great disservice when they argue that our salvation is through good works and not unto good works. It is a dangerous place that this leads us to.

It leads us to a place that I saw one Southern Baptist seminarian go this weekend. Let’s call him Tim. Tim, in one of his many attempts to ignite the passions of his social media echo chamber, began to put a former Presbyterian minister on blast for an antinomian view. This pastor has not been on the stage for some time. But Tim likes to be heard and so attacked a formally ordained minister. However in doing so he makes the statement that it is “not enough” that we rest in our justification. My question is then: In whom then should I rest for my salvation? Jay? Jay is a terrible person to rest in. Jay is a sinner who daily has to repent. Do I have all that I need in Christ to be fully redeemed? Is it really finished? Or must I add to Christ’s work with my own sanctifying efforts as Rome tells me?

This is how serious the discussion is, it is the crux of the Reformation. Scripture clearly teaches that we are saved not by our works but by Christ. Our works are evidences of the faith and grace that has been freely given to us. But they are not the instrument of some final salvation. So to Tim, or anyone else who asks, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” I look to Christ who says, “Believe” and “come to me and take my yoke, for it is easy and my burden is light.”

What Would You Prefer?

So folks are still blasting Colin Kapernick’s form of protest even after a year. We’re still debating this whole issue. People have just taken to not watch football then let Kaepernick’s protest spark any kind of dialogue. Which hey, that your decision. You’re grown.

But let’s start at the top. Because we’re not talking about the real issue. Everyone’s made Kaepernick’s protest into something it’s not. Here’s what I mean:

Kaepernick isn’t protesting against Trump. He’s not blasting soldiers. He’s not said that he has been oppressed. Statistically, he’s better than several starting QB’s (though not Brady stats). He’s not protesting for antifa or anything like that.

He kneels because

Oscar Grant
Tamir Rice
Eric Garner
Philando Castile
Sandra Bland
Terrance Crutcher

Alton Sterling
Jordan Edwards
Sam Dubose

Michael Brown
John Crawford III
Akai Gurley
Rumain Brisbon
Eric Harris
Walter Scott

Have been killed by law enforcement.

These are all the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. If I looked them up, I’d probable have a longer post. But these were real people who were killed without a trial. And their killers have all walked. Free. Absolutely free. You want to talk about being prolife? Here you go. It’s all right here.

So let us then ask this question: What would YOU prefer? Because when black folks march, y’all get upset. When black folks riot you get upset, when black folks kneel you get upset. So is it the form of the protest, or the subject?

what would you prefer they do? Sweep it under the rug? Ignore the videos? Carry on? Shameful is what it is.

Kapernick is quietly, peacefully protesting which is his right. In fact, either nothing Tebow and Kapernick have the right to kneel, or nether of them do.

I’m With Jane

ImWithJane

Just as a word of introduction, before you continue, I implore you to read this article by author and co-host of Fundy Sees Red, Marci Preheim. Then, I want you to read this article by one of my partners here at LNT, Hannah Conroy. Otherwise, none of what I am about to say will make sense.

Allow to say two more things before I allow my fingers to dance with anger across the keyboard:

  1. I’m not going to recall many details of the events because Marci Preheim has already documented the events fairly well in her post.
  2. I do not know the people involved in this incident, and for all I know everything that’s being said could be a boldfaced lie. I have no proof whatsoever that these events unfolded the way Marci Preheim’s article said that they did, but I have reason to believe that the events of this story actually occurred for three reasons: (1) I’ve followed Marci long enough that I’m confident that she wouldn’t post BS. (2) Marci Preheim attended John MacArthur’s church for a while and she can tell you all about the in’s and out’s of it. (3) I don’t know “Jane” personally, but I’ve known and heard of way too many Jane’s to remain silent.

As I read Preheim’s article and Hannah’s response to said article, I’m left feeling very angry and very tired. It makes me angry for all of the obvious reasons. A woman has her voice taken from her simply because the culture of the church community that she’s getting an education from devalues the voice of women, and because once again, this is a situation where the abused powerless aren’t receiving justice and the powerful abusers are covering up their crimes. Unfortunately, this is what people who are not complimentarians think of when they hear about complimentarianism.

Let’s be honest, the Reformed community does a crappy job of showing sympathy to women like Jane. Now, to a degree, I understand where they’re coming from. Accusations of rape against someone who didn’t do it can ruin their life, but according to what I’m reading, he openly admitted that there was no consent. This is unacceptable. And if everything that I’m reading is true, then this man needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent and John MacArthur and anyone else involved with this case needs to resign immediately and repent.

Like I said earlier, this whole thing left me feeling tired. I’m tired because I hear about stories like this all the time. A leader hurts people in his church here, a leader hurts people in his church there, etc. The list goes on and on. I’m tired of hearing about it. Something needs to change.

Personally, I am not a complimentarian, but I think if complimentarians are to be taken seriously then they need to stand up against people like MacArthur and say, “He does not represent me.” But this isn’t just the time for talk, this is also the time for action. Complimentarians need to show that a woman’s worth is not determined by her ability to marry or bear children, but her value is determined by her belonging to Christ and being made in the image of God.

As for me, I am with all the Janes. I believe that they have a voice, and I believe that they deserve equality within the body of Christ, and if you don’t believe that then you are no better than Jane’s oppressors.