Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 6:40 PM

While we perhaps have sold and recommended more Banner of Truth publications than any other Christian bookstore in our city, or even in the entire Houston area, I sometimes have, in various ways, had cause to explain that we are not "rubber stamps" for all that is advocated by Banner of Truth books. We are more favorable to C. H. Spurgeon's understanding of Biblical faith and practice than what is found in some Banner of Truth books.

I explain that we do not endorse infant baptism, Presbyterian church government, the "pre-faith regeneration" theory taught by Louis Berkhof in his Systematic Theology published by BT, the anti-public invitation viewpoint set forth by BT's primary director, Mr. Iain Murray, some distorted representations of C. H. Spurgeon's faith and practice, critiques against D. L. Moody and John Gill, and perhaps another item or two.

Brother E. W. Reisinger was, as I understand, the person primarily responsible for the distribution of BT publications in the USA in the 1960s, at first under the name and entity of Puritan Publications. Later, BT absorbed the USA company and made it a branch of The Banner of Truth Trust. We maintained a very cordial, friendly relationship with Brother Jim Eshelman who for years was the manager of the BT office in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but retired a couple of years ago. We used to enjoy fellowshipping with Jim at the annual Christian Booksellers Convention.

Brother Reisinger, some years ago, established the Founders Ministries, and we sell some of their publications and subscribe to the Founders Journal magazine.

On the Founders' website, an article appears in opposition to public invitations, a matter which I have had cause to research on the Internet in recent weeks, and this is repetitive of the anti-public invitation viewpoint expressed by Mr. Murray of the Banner of Truth. I don't know, but I suspect that Brother Reisinger may have possibly been influenced, or least encouraged, by Murray's position.

We would not be mentioning this matter in relation to either BT or the Founders Ministries except for the fact these sources are quite fond of C. H. Spurgeon and often make use of him so far as possible in support of their views. But on several issues, Spurgeon does not belong in the BT camp of theology, eschatology, and ecclesiology.

The primary method of evangelism of many BT writers was (and is) baptizing babies, and they expected the babies were going to eventually enjoy the blessings assumed to be vouchsafed to them in the "covenant" as the offspring of believing parents. Dr. Berkhof even alleges that children may receive the "seed of regeneration" when in infancy "before they come to years of discretion." Since such an early "regeneration" is said to be enacted "without the Word" in what Berkhof calls a "hyper-physical" manner, he seems to have developed his theory of "pre-faith regeneration" so as to accommodate the recipients of infant baptism.

But Mr. Spurgeon would have none of this, and when he published pedobaptist Thomas Watson's Body of Divinity, CHS appended a long article on Baptism from the Baptist point of view. Of course, the BT edition of the same work does not include Spurgeon's Appendix. Mr. Spurgeon did not believe that children were regenerated in infancy, and when they did come to years of discretion, he believed they were to be taught the Gospel and be urged to accept it. He wrote a book, Come Ye Children, on this very subject.

In the particular instance of the Founder's article against the "invitation system," the arguments against public invitations are not consistent with Spurgeon's desire for an immediate response to the Gospel message. The arguments seem more suitable to the pedobaptist practices than those of Baptists.

We are somewhat jealous about Spurgeon's name, and we never like to see his name associated with something which is not generally representative of his views. While Spurgeon's methods of more than a hundred years ago would certainly not exactly parallel or replicate modern-day methodology on many things, yet the underlying principle of Spurgeon's insistence upon an IMMEDIATE RESPONSE to the Gospel is identical with the basic principle of what is practiced today by most Baptists who use the public invitation after a faithful presentation of the basic Gospel of Christ. (We have noted some instances of Spurgeon's methods in some recent articles; we will not repeat them here).

Certainly, abuses and aberrations from Gospel truth which may become associated with a public invitation are not sanctioned, but an abuses or aberrations in particular circumstances do militate against the method or system itself. It is not the fault of the public invitation method or system that there is an abuse of it by some, no more than an abuse of the method, purpose, or subject of baptism is the fault of baptism. Abuse related to taking up the collection, or offering, does not militate against that practice. Abuse of music in some way does not negate the use of instrumental music.

I noted that the Founders' article repeats the bulk of the objections I have seen elsewhere against public invitations. In this email article, I wish to cite only one particular objection which, in essence, is in conflict with Spurgeon (whose name, by the way, is used within the Founders' article). The objection is as follows:

"The fourth danger of the invitation system is the unavoidable confusion of conscience of those who did not go forward when invited to do so by the preacher. They are often left under the impression that they have rebelled against God when in truth they have not rebelled at all."

This does not, in my judgment, coincide with Spurgeon's point of view at all. He insisted that when one has heard the Gospel of Christ, he is certainly in "rebellion" if he does not respond in an immediate acceptance of it. He most commonly pressed the hearers of the Gospel to make a "Yes" or "No" decision at once, and he especially does so in the excerpt I am giving below.

Here are Spurgeon's words at the close of his sermon entitled, "An Urgent Request for an Immediate Answer" (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 37, #2232). These words came from CHS when he was nearing his own home-going to be with the Lord, and they reflect with what earnestness he addressed the Gospel to lost souls, and the urgency of an immediate acceptance of it which he pressed upon his hearers and readers. He did not accommodate any "delay," "excuse," or "putting off." With Spurgeon, it was a "NOW" decision which he emphasized.

He says:

May I ask that everyone here will say “Yes,” or “No,” to the invitation to give himself up to Christ? If you will do so, say, “I will.” If you will not do so, say deliberately, “I will not.”

I wish I could get hold of an undecided man, and taking his hand, could say to him, “Now, you must tell me which it will be.”

I can imagine some of you would say, “Oh, give me time to consider!” and I would reply, “You have had time to consider. Your hair is getting grey.”

In spite of all our entreaties, people say, “Oh, but I do not like to decide so suddenly!” If I asked you whether you would be honest, I hope that you would not take many minutes to answer that. Why, then, should you hesitate so long in giving your adherence to Christ? I am like Abraham's servant; some answer I must have.

But can we rightly press men to decide if we fear that they will answer “No”? I think we may, because, from the nature of the case, no answer means a denial. How many of our hearers have thus for years turned their back upon Christ, by the simple method of giving no answer at all! “We hear what you say, sir,” they murmur, “and thank you for saying it;” but, nevertheless, they go out, and go on their way, and forget what manner of
men they are.

Such a response is a refusal; and it is nonetheless a refusal because you will probably retort, “But I did not say ‘No,’ sir. Indeed, one of these days I may perhaps say ‘Yes.’”

But, meanwhile, you reject the proposal, and refuse to give yourself up to the Lord. The question is, Will you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

The absence of an affirmative answer means, “No, I will not.” I am sure that it does in every case. No argument can be raised about that.

But if you will answer me, “No, I will not have Christ; I will not believe on him; I will not become a Christian; I will not leave my old ways; I mean to go on in them;” well, I thank you for the answer, pained as I am, because now we can talk it over. This is better than no response, for now we have something to work upon. An ill answer can be considered, while no answer baffles all our efforts to help you. It is far more hopeful to encounter opposition, than to meet with indifference. It is a great thing, when a ship is at sea, for the captain to know whereabouts he is; and when we meet with those who distinctly reject Christ, we at once know our bearings.

If you say, “No, I am not a Christian, and I do not want to be;” so far you are honest, and I want you now to think it over. Would you like to die in this frame of mind? You may die where you are sitting. Are you wise to come to this determination? Do you think that this is a resolution which you can justify before the judgment-bar of God? You will certainly have to appear there. After death you will rise again, when the trump of the archangel sounds; and, as surely as you are here, you will have to stand before the great white throne, whereon Christ will sit as Judge. How will the resolution which you have now made stand the light of that tremendous day?

I pray you, think of it, and I hope that you will alter your decision as many another man has done when he has calmly considered the magnitude of the issues at stake, and the awful result which must come of rejecting him who is now the Savior, but who will one day sit as the Judge.

But we are the more determined to press you for some decision, because an ill answer will set us free to go to others. You see Eliezer says, “If not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.” Do not suppose that if you refuse Christ, he will lose the effect of his death. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” If you will not come unto him, others will. If you reject him, he has a people who will accept him, by his almighty grace.

O sirs, if you; that hear the gospel will not have my Master, we will go and bring in the publicans and harlots, and they shall enter the kingdom of heaven before you! Sons of pious parents, children of Sabbath-schools, if you believe not, you shall be cast into “outer darkness,” where shall be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” while the people whom you despise, infidels and profligates, the very scum of society, shall accept the Savior, and live.

Oh, I charge you, think not that your refusal of the gospel invitation will leave any gaps in the ranks of the redeemed! Our Savior, in his parable of the marriage of the king’s son, foretold what will happen. The king said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but they
which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.”

But I would urge you to yield yourself unto the Lord, that you may be found at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Do not trifle with eternal matters. If you want to play the fool, do it with counters or with pebbles, but not with your soul, that shall live for ever in bliss or in woe.

My importunity with you is strengthened when I think that, perhaps, if you give me the answer straight out, “No, I am not a Christian, and I do not mean to be one,” you may, in saying it, see more clearly what a terrible decision you have arrived at. An ill answer may startle you, and ultimately lead you to repent of your folly, and reverse your decision. If you would write down — “I am not a Christian, and I never mean to be one,” it might
startle you still more. I challenge you to do so; and when it is written, put it over the mantelpiece, and look at it. It will be far better to do that, horrible as it is, than to continue in this state of wicked suspense, indifferent as to whether you are lost or saved, undecided whether you are for Christ or against him, and yet, in your heart of hearts, dead in trespasses and sins.

In this very place, I once urged those who were undecided to go home, and write down, either the word “Saved,” or “Lost,” and sign their name to the paper. One man, when he got into his house, asked for pen and paper; and when his wife enquired why he wanted it, he said he was going to do what the parson said, and write down “Lost.” She refused to fetch him the paper if he was going to do that. So he got it himself, and put down a capital L, when his little girl climbed up in the chair behind him, and said, “No, father, you shan’t do that, I’d rather die than you should do that”; and the child’s tears fell on his hand as she spoke. What my sermon had failed to do, those tears accomplished; the strong man was bowed, and yielded himself to Christ; and when they got up from their knees in that little room, he took the pen, and changing the L into an S, wrote “Saved.”

He was saved because he came face to face with the fact that he was lost. His ill answer startled both himself and his child. May God work the like change in you, both for your own sake and also for the sake of your loved ones!

I want to press you for some kind of answer, because, like Eliezer, I have promised my Master to make search for you, and an ill answer will clear me of my oath. If I can get “No,” from you as your answer, and am certain that you will not go with me to my Master’s Son, I shall be clear. It was so with Abraham’s servant; he and his master agreed to that at the first.

When men say “No,” and entreaties are of no further use, and the preaching of the gospel has no power over them, then we must leave them, and carry the glad tidings to others, just as Paul and Barnabas of old said to the angry Jews at Antioch, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

I beseech you, do not put Christ away from you; and I press you for a definite answer. I say, as Eliezer said, “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.”

Now I just want to have a little talk with you over this matter.

My dear friend, you are in peril of eternal death. While you are hesitating, life is ebbing. During the past few months, how many of our dear friends have been taken away by influenza, and other causes! This congregation has suffered from sickness, in family after family, as I never knew it suffer before. May you not be taken?

I charge you, therefore, do not act as though you had plenty of time. Possibly you have not another week to live. The clock, as it ticks, seems to me to say, “Now, now, now, now, now, now;” and for some of you there is an alarm in the clock, which, when it runs down, utters this warning, “Now or never, now or never, now or never.”

After all, the matter that we have in hand is not one that requires great debate. Whether I will believe the truth or not, should not be a matter of discussion. Whether I will receive the gift of God or not, should not be a thing to be argued about if I am in my right mind. Whether, being lost, I am willing to be saved — whether, having the gospel of eternal life proclaimed to me, I should accept it by faith — well, I need not ask the sages as to what I shall answer, nor need I go to the Law Courts to consult the judges as to my reply. This is a thing so simple that it requires no argument. Who will choose to be damned? Who will refuse eternal life? Surely these are questions that should be decided at once.

Waiting and trifling have done you no good hitherto. The countryman, when he wanted to cross the river, and found it deep, said that he would sit down and wait till the water was all gone by. He waited, but the river was just as deep after all his waiting; and with all your delay, the difficulties in the way of your accepting Christ do not get any less. If you look at the matter rightly, you will see that there are no great difficulties in the way,
nor were there ever such obstacles as your imagination pictures.

Another countryman, having to cross Cheapside, one morning, was so confused by the traffic of omnibuses and cabs and foot passengers, that he said he felt sure he could not get across the road, and would wait till the people thinned out a little; but all day long they never did thin out. Unless he had waited till the evening, he would have found little difference in that perpetual stream of hurrying people.

O friends, you have waited until you can get “a convenient season” to become a Christian, and after all your delay, the way is not any clearer! Twenty years ago some of you were as
near decision for Christ as you are now. Nay, you seemed nearer. I then thought, “Oh, some of them will soon believe in Jesus, and yield their hearts to him!”

But you said then that it was not quite time. Is it time now? Is the day without difficulty any nearer? Is the season any more suitable? Nay, indeed, there is no improvement. Let me say that, I believe that your waiting has not only done you no good, but has positively done you great harm. There were times when it seemed easy for you to yield to the pressure of the divine Spirit. It certainly is not easier now; indeed, it is more difficult. I think sometimes

God treats men as Benjamin Franklin treated the man who stood loafing in his bookshop,
and at last took up a book, and said, “How much is this?” Franklin replied, “A shilling.” “A shilling?” he said, “a shilling?” and he would not give the price. After staying about ten minutes, he said: “Come, Mr. Franklin, now what will you take for it?” Franklin answered, “Two shillings.” “No,” he said, “you are joking.” “I am not joking,” said Franklin: “the price is two shillings.” The man waited, and sat a while, thinking. “I want the book,” he drawled out; “still, I will not give two shillings. What will you take for it?” Franklin said, “Three shillings.” “Well,” the man said, “why do you raise your price?” To which Franklin responded, “You see, you have wasted so much of my time that I could better have afforded to take one shilling at first than three shillings now.”

Sometimes, if men come to Christ at the very first invitation, it is a sweet and easy coming. See how dear young children often yield themselves to Christ, and how peaceful is their
entrance into the rest of faith! But when people wait, when they postpone believing, when they violate conscience, when they tread down all the uprising of holy thoughts within them, it becomes much harder for them to trust in Christ than it would have been when he was first preached to them. I come, therefore, to you again, and say, “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my Master, tell me: and if not, tell me; and tell me now.”

“Well,” says one, “I am glad you have spoken to us; I will think it over.”

No, friend, I do not mean that. I do not want you to think it over. You have had enough of thinking; I pray that God’s Spirit may lead you to an immediate decision.

“Well, suppose that we consider it during the week,” you say. No, that will not suit either my Master or myself. I want the answer now. I am like a messenger carrying a letter, on which is written, “The bearer will wait for a reply.”

I was once in a country town, and I said to my host, when I went to bed, “I have to be in London tomorrow, and I cannot get up in time for my work unless I leave by a train which I can catch readily enough if you wake me at six o’clock.” Well, my host was an Irishman, so he woke me at five o’clock; and when I sat up in bed, I said, “What is it?” He said, “You have only another hour to sleep.”

The consequence was that I missed my train. If he had only wakened me at the proper time, and said, “Now you must get up,” I should have dressed at once; but as he said, “You have only another hour to sleep,” of course I slept that hour, and another one as well, for I was weary. The same principle applies to you.

If I say to you, “Go home, and think it over all the week,” I shall be giving you a week in which to remain in rebellion against God; and I have no right to do that. I shall be giving you a week in which you are to continue an unbeliever; and he that is an unbeliever is in peril of eternal ruin, for “he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Worse than all, the week may lead to many other weeks; to months, perhaps, and years; perchance to a whole eternity of woe. I cannot give you five minutes. God the Holy Ghost speaks by me now to souls whom God hath chosen from before the foundation of the world, and he says, “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The Holy Ghost says “Today, even today.”

“Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

The question comes to you, Will ye be Christ’s? “If ye will deal kindly and truly with my Master, tell me: and if not, tell me.”

The best answer you can give is in the verses that follow the text. “Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before thee; take her.”

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.”

"Take my poor heart, and let it be
For ever closed to all but thee!
Seal thou my breast, and let me wear
That pledge of love for ever there.”

He will not be slow to accept that which is offered to him. He will take you now, and he will keep you for ever.

“How is it to be done?” says one. The plan is very simple. Jesus Christ took upon himself the sins of all who ever will trust him. Come and rest upon his atoning sacrifice. Give yourself up to him wholly and unreservedly, and he will save you. Take him to be your Savior by the simple act of faith. The pith of the matter is that I, being lost, give myself
over to Christ to save me.

I believe that the act of faith was very well set forth in the statement of a poor imbecile. They said that he was an idiot; but I think that he had more real sense than many a man who boasts of his intellect. Some one said to him “John, have you got a soul?

“No,” he said, “I ain’t got no soul.”

“Why, John, how is that?”

He replied, “I had a soul once, but I lost it, and Jesus Christ found it, so I have just let him keep it.”

There is the whole philosophy of salvation. You have lost your soul; Christ has found it. Let him keep it. God bless you! Amen.


DEAR READER, — This sermon is an urgent appeal to the undecided; and if you are in that condition, I would by this letter press the suit home in the most personal manner. I am a sick man who has narrowly escaped the hand of death, and I feel that the things of eternity ought not to be trifled with. To be saved at the last, our wisdom is to be saved at once. If I had left my soul’s matters for a sick bed, I could not have attended to them there, for I was delirious, and the mind could not fix itself sensibly upon any subject. Before the cloud lowers over your mind, give your best attention to the Word of the Lord. I beseech you, dear reader, to do this, for you cannot tell how soon the hour of life may end. It has been life to me to hear of souls saved by God’s grace through these sermons, and I am praying the Lord to give me a deep and long draught of this heart-reviving joy, by causing me to hear that this discourse is made to thousands the means of life from the dead. It is a large request, but the Lord has said, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Thus would I open my mouth in prayer for you, dear reader, and thousands like you. Do you
not, in your heart of hearts, desire that the Lord would hear his servant’s petition?

Yours to serve as strength returns,
Menton, Nov. 14, 1891

NOTE: Mr. Spurgeon died on January 31, 1892. This sermon reveals with what compassion he pleaded with, reasoned with, and pressed upon lost souls to come to Christ for salvation -- right up to the door of his own death. Is it any wonder that he had such a great harvest of souls in his ministry, and extending even beyond the grave thru his published works? Even now, there may be souls reading this excerpt, and they will be moved by Spurgeon's plea to decide now to come to Christ for salvation!

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