Sent: Friday, May 21, 2004 4:01 PM
Subject: REPLY ON MURRAY'S BOOKLET [05/21/04]

In a message dated 5/20/2004 10:29:14 PM Central Daylight Time, a brother writes about "public invitations:"

Many of my concerns were confirmed and are addressed in The Banner of Truth booklet, The Invitation System, by Iain Murray. It is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to explore this issue further.

I have privately replied to this brother, but as a matter of possible interest to others, I would like to go a little further and comment on the particular reference to Mr. Iain Murray's booklet. It was one of the first in modern times, as I recall, to question the validity of the use of public invitations. Since then, others have followed, but most seem inclined to merely be repetitious of Mr. Murray's thinking. I suspect he may qualify as the "father" of modern opposition to public invitations among Reformed brethren.

I would not have half the dissatisfaction with Mr. Murray's writings if he did not so often attempt to put Spurgeon into the saddle of certain hobbyhorses or make him ride the "ponies" of Mr. Murray's own theoretical merry-go-round. As long as he does that, we will be tempted to "have our say." Since we are devoted to publishing Spurgeon's works, whether we chose to do so or not, we are often expected to exonerate Spurgeon when it is perceived that he is being erroneously appropriated in the interest of peccadilloes or peculiarities.

We are neither envious of Mr. Murray's views and practices, nor are we opposed to his right to their propagation and use, but we do wish he would see his way clear to at least try to make them go upon their own wheels rather than attempt to hitch an illegitimate ride on the step of Spurgeon's carriage.

With all due respect and gratitude to Mr. Murray for his publication work at the Banner of Truth for many very wonderful and valuable reprints of old books -- many which we are happy to stock at Pilgrim Book Store -- it must be remembered by those of us who are Baptists that Mr. Murray, after all, is not a Baptist and he advocates PEDOBAPTISM (the baptism of infants). To assume that this fact would have no bearing upon his opinions on -- or his opposition to -- public invitations, I think, may be very charitable but highly unlikely. If the views held by Brother Murray are in fact true, that would certainly make a public invitation a rather superfluous, useless practice -- especially in consideration of the claims made in some categories of the Reformed soteriology as to the supposed pre-faith regeneration of infants.

hamstrung as they are by their view of the baptism of believers only, do not have the luxury of extending an invitation to believing parents to bring forth their offspring and present them for baptism, so we are shut up to another type of invitation which would naturally not be palatable to the Pedobaptists who consider themselves regenerated from infancy.

The Reformed view, as only they would define it, involves some peculiar relation to the baptizing of infants and supposes that the infant offspring of believers are in a special "covenant" relationship with God, and as such the offspring stand to inherit all the blessings of the supposed covenant. Somehow, they manage to find this "covenant" as a continuity of the Abrahamic covenant of the Old Testament, by which infants supposedly  have the right to baptism in place of circumcision, and church membership in the place of being a member of the nation of Old Testemant Israel.

Louis Berkhof, whose Systematic Theology Mr. Murray promotes and publishes, alleges that such children of the covenant have "new life" implanted in them "long before they are physically able to hear the call of the gospel" (page 471), and that "they receive seed of regeneration long before they come to years of discretion" (page 472). This is the genesis form of the "pre-faith new birth" theory. Berkhof refers to it as being a "hyper-physical" work of the Holy Spirit. How he discerns this, he does not tell, nor does he offer any scriptural precedent for it.

Berkhof says, however, that "Reformed theologians" hold that "it is possible to proceed on the assumption (not the certain knowledge) that the children offered in baptism are regenerated and are therefore in possession of the semen fidei (the seed of faith)" (pages 641, 642).

I think this concept must certainly be contributory to the "pre-faith new birth" theory which is advocated by some Reformed writers and Hardshell Baptists, but it is not the Confessional or Creedal view on the subject, as admitted by Berkhof . The theory espoused by Berkhof and some others of our time is -- according to Berkhof -- not in accord with the views of Luther, Calvin, the Confessions, and seventeenth century writers (Puritans) (Systematic Theology, pages 466, 468, 470, 476). Its thesis is that the use of the Word is not an essential means in the Spirit's work of regeneration (pages 471-476). This conflicts with the Confessions.

I do not know when Mr. Murray professes that he received the "seed of regeneration," but I do know that there are those who accept the non-creedal Reformed view set forth by Berkhof as being descriptive of their own experience. They obviously believe that they have been Christians at least ever since they were baptized as babies. I have personally heard such professions in conversation with some who were baptized in infancy.

I recall a personal discussion I had years ago with the late Reformed theologian, Dr. Lorraine Boettner, on this matter, when he paid me a visit at my bookstore when I lived in Ashland, Kentucky. Dr. Boettner said that he had no recollection of when it was that he became a conscious believer in Christ for salvation subsequent to his baptism as an infant. That Dr. Boettner at the time of our discussion was certainly a believer in Christ and a Christian, I have not the slighted reason to doubt or deny; but that he was regenerated in infancy, I do have reason to doubt and deny. Had he not been Reformed in his theology as to infants, I think he probably could have probably cited some subsequent time in his early life as when he first became an actual conscious believer in Christ. Certainly, that time did exist, for Dr. Boettner obviously did become a conscious believer in the Son of God and His salvation by grace years after his infant baptism.

It is understandable that the advocates of the Reformed view on infants would not have much use for an indiscriminate public invitation, for it might be the occasion of creating doubt in the minds of some as to whether they were indeed born again as infants. They might tend to think, as I did, that although as a youngster I had received baptism on Easter Sunday in accordance with the Methodist Church's practice, I became convicted that I was not really a converted person. This led to repentance, and I responded to an invitation to publcly confess Jesus Christ as Saviour.

In view of Mr. Murray's attachment to Pedcbaptism, if Mr. Murray is the fountain of the anti-invitation thesis from which the reader is drinking, he might take what is said by Mr. Murray against public invitations with a "grain of salt."

In fact, we have often found reason to take what Mr. Murray says with "grains of salt." He alleged, for example, that C. H. Spurgeon's views were "moulded" by Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted, when the fact is Spurgeon described Alleine as a "better preacher of the law than the gospel," and reading the book was "like sitting at the foot of Sinai" [For Spurgeon's various remarks on the book, see the Autobiography, Volume 1, pages 68, 80, 104; also see the sermon #531, The Warrant of Faith, page 531].

Mr. Murray has also not infrequently overstated the case on Spurgeon in the matter of nit-picking of certain terminology. In his book, The Forgotten Spurgeon, for example, Murray mixes Spurgeon's name in with his criticism of the expressions, "open your heart" and "decide for Christ," which according to Murray are expressions coined by "Arminianism" (pages 95).

Yet these phrases were frequently used by Spurgeon, and he even has a sermon entitled, "An Open Heart for a Great Saviour," in which he says:

"It is perfectly true that the work of salvation lies first and mainly in Jesus receiving sinners to himself, to pardon, to cleanse, to sanctify, to preserve, to make perfect; but, at the same time, the sinner also receives Christ; there is an act on the sinner’s part by which, being constrained by divine grace, he openeth his heart to the admission of Jesus Christ, and Jesus enters in, and thenceforth dwells in the heart, and reigns and rules there. To a gracious readiness of heart to entertain the friend who knocks at the door, we are brought by God the Holy Ghost, and then he sups with us and we with him."
>> [Metropolitan Tabernalce Pulpit, Volume 12, Year 1866, sermon #669, page 13].

In another appeal, Spurgeon said, "Oh I wish some of you would thus respond to my appeal this day! This thing is also from the Lord: it was he who gave me this message; it was he who brought you to hear it. Surely you will not be found fighting against God. Your heart is open to him; he sees the faintest desire that you have toward him. Breathe out your wish now, and say, 'My heart is before thee: take it.'" (MTP, Volume 37, #2231, page 599).

On the matter of "decision," it might be well for Mr. Murray to consider Spurgeon's remarks in the sermon, "An Urgent Request for an Immediate Answer" (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 37, #2231). [Note: In a former article, we notice that we erroneously gave the sermon number as #2232]. In this sermon, Spurgeon addresses his hearers, "But we are the more determined to press you for some DECISION" and "I pray that Gpod's Spirit may lead you to an immediate DECISION" (pages 596, 599).

In recent articles which I have mailed about Spurgeon's Society of Evangelists and the reports he gave in The Sword and the Trowel magazine of their meetings, I have cited a few of the many references to the "decisions" which were made in those campaigns.

In the same sermon #2231, Spurgeon urges his hearers to "accept Christ" (page 16), which is another expression which we have sometimes seen classified by some as being "Arminian." But Spurgeon did not find the use of "accept Christ" was taboo because it is used by Arminians! After all, did not Paul say that the truth is worthy of "all acceptation" (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:9)?

Again, if Mr. Murray did not try to put Spurgeon on his hobbyhorses, we would not care to comment upon his using or not using whatever phrases he pleases. But please, let us not see such phantasmagoria as this attributed to Spurgeon. His Calvinism did not so restrict him to expressions authorized and approved by Reformed writers and theologians of whatever their stripe.

C. H. Spurgeon:

I believe, most firmly, in the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic, and I hold them to be very fraught with comfort to God’s people; but if any man shall say that the preaching of these is the whole of the preaching of the gospel, I am at issue with him.

Brethren, you may preach those doctrines as long as you like, and yet fail to preach the gospel; and I will go further, and affirm that some who have even denied those truths, to our great grief, have nevertheless been gospel preachers for all that, and God has saved souls by their ministry. . . .

Preach Christ, young man, if you want to win souls. Preach all the doctrines, too, for the building up of believers, but still the main business is to preach Jesus who came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. . . .

This simple truth, that “Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which is lost,” and that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” must be your jewel, your treasure, your life.

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 13, Year 1867, #786].

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