Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 10:44 PM

I had a recent welcome visitor -- a Baptist pastor whom I have known for several years -- and during the course of our time of fellowship and conversation together, he asked me, "Why are Calvinist churches usually so small?"

I chuckled a bit at the question, and my immediate off-the-cuff answer was to facetiously say, "Well, some of them I have known across the years seem to be afraid that they are going to 'convert one of the non-elect,' or get a false profession from one of the non-elect, and so they are very concerned lest they get false professions of faith."

Some of them will not even give a public invitation for even "the elect" to walk the aisle and confess Christ as Savior -- apparently being afraid they might get a premature profession or appear to look like an "Arminian" using "high pressure" tactics. I have even known some to deprecate one of Spurgeon's favorite hymns, "Just As I Am." 

Those type of Calvinist churches will probably always be small. If they really expect to guarantee a foolproof 100% born again church membership, they will probably never grow very much. I have never seen a foolproof method of having a 100% born again membership. Sure, it would be great, but remember Christ had a false professor among the disciples, and His parable of the sower does not indicate all professors will be for real (Luke 8)

Some seem to be afraid of "Arminianism" to the extent that they evidently think it is more important to war against it, and the effect is they leave the impression that they don't really believe what they claim to believe -- namely, the sovereignty of God. They act as if God may be in danger of losing his sovereignty, of being dethroned by the anti-teachings of the likes of Dave Hunt, Norman Geisler, Larry Vance, Joe Chambers, Peter Ruckman, or some other modern anti-Calvinist website or blog. Hence -- James the Exegete, the Monergists, The Reformed, and Sovereign Gracers to the rescue! Mount a blogsite, have a Sovereign Grace Conference, and blast them out of the water!

Believe me, as long as Spurgeon is around, confessional Calvinism has nothing to fear from the likes of these "antis" and their peashooters. Hunt, Geisler, Vance, Ruckman and company will be six-feet-under R.I.P. tombstones and their writings will show up in somebody's yard sale while Spurgeon lives on to influence future generations.

Furthermore, some modern Calvinists appear to be so "straight and narrow" about having a proper theoretical or systematic theology that they can't seem to appreciate the simple truth wherever it is found. For example --

Andrew Fuller tells about being criticized by an 18th century strong-as-a-bear's-breath Calvinist for quoting John 3:16, as if it was "Arminian" to do so. Fuller replied that a Scripture was nonetheless true just because it was used by an Arminian. A lot of these types were actually converted under less-than-Calvinist preachers, even under Arminians, but now they seem rather reluctant to admit it. The can't seem to appreciate the simple Gospel when it happens to be preached by an "Arminian."

I'm not saying that "big is beter" or that "small is bad." I personally have received spiritual benefit from both the bigs and the smalls. I don't have any problem with either. I firmly believe there are Christians in both. I am simply saying that some Calvinist churches would probably be larger in number if they did not have such eccentricities which tend to make them rather unproductive in fulfilling the Lord's commission of preaching the Gospel and making disciples. They seem more evangelistic and interested in seeking to convert a Christian to Calvinism than to convert a sinner from his unsaved condition.

I think C. H. Spurgeon had to contront a significant amount of this same type of Calvinism in his time. He remarked --

Methinks I see several ministers standing in the way. They are of such high doctrine that they dare not invite a sinner, and they therefore clog the gospel with so many conditions. They will have it that the sinner must feel a certain quantity of experience before he is invited to come, and so they put their sermons up and say, "You are not invited, you are a dead sinner, you must not come; you are not invited; you are a hardened rebel."

"Stand back," says Christ, "every one of you, though ye be my servants. Let him come, he is willing—stand not in his way." It is a sad thing that Christ's ministers should become the devil's aiders and abettors, and yet sometimes they are, for when they are telling a sinner how much he must feel, and how much he must know before he comes to Christ, they are virtually rolling big stones in the path, and saying to the willing sinner, "Thou mayest not come."

In the name of Almighty God, stand back everything this morning that keeps the willing sinner from Christ. Away with you, away with you! Christ sprinkles his blood upon the way, and cries to you, "Vanish, begone! leave the road clear; let him come; stand not in his path; make straight before him his way, level the mountains and fill up the valleys; make straight through the wilderness a highway for him to come, to drink of this water of life freely. 'Let him come.'" (New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 5, page 438).

Spurgeon also said --

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.>>  [#786 — The Great Mystery of Godliness,    MTP Vol 13, Year 1867,
1 Timothy 3:16]    

"C. H. Spurgeon earnestly exhorted those who had accepted Christ as their Saviour to come forward amongst his people and avow their attachment to His person and name. Words of kindly encouragement and of loving persuasiveness, were addressed to the timid and retiring ones, who feared to avow themselves to be the Lord's lest they should fall back into sin and dishonor His name. This was followed by an appeal to those who had confessed the name of Jesus — an appeal of so stirring and searching a nature, that many must have felt constrained to say, 'Lord what wilt thou have me to do?' Prayer for more earnest living, abiding, practical godliness, followed this address." The Sword and The Trowel Magazine, 1865, page. 70 .

Spurgeon said in one of his New Park Street sermons --

I do not say to you, "Go home and seek God in prayer; I say come to Christ now at this very hour;" you will never be in a better state than you are now, for you were never in a worse state, and that is the fittest state in which to come to Christ. He that is very sick is just in the right state to have a doctor; he that is filthy and begrimed is just in the right state to be washed; he that is naked is just in the right state to be clothed. That is your case.

But you say, "I do not feel my need." Just so: your not feeling it proves you to have the greater need. You cannot trust your feelings, because you say, you have not any. Why, if God were to hear your prayers arid make you feel your need, you would begin to trust in your feelings, and would be led to say, "I trust Christ because I feel my need;" that would be just saying, "I trust myself." All these things are but Popery in disguise; all this preaching to sinners that they must feel this and feel that before they trust in Jesus, is just self-righteousness in another shape.

I know our Calvinistic brethren will not like this sermon—I cannot help that—for I do not hesitate to say, that Phariseeism is mixed with Hyper-Calvinism more than with any other sect in the world. And I do solemnly declare that this preaching to the prejudice and feelings of what they call sensible sinners, is nothing more than self-righteousness taking a most cunning and crafty shape, for it is telling the sinner that he must be something before he comes to Christ. Whereas the gospel is preached not to sensible sinners, or sinners with any other qualifying adjective, but to sinners as sinners, to sinners just as they are; it is not to sinners as repentant sinners, but to sinners as sinners, be their state what it may, and their feelings whatever they may.

Oh, sinners, Mercy's door is wide open flung to you this morning; let not Satan push you back saying, "You are not fit;" You are not fit! that is to say, you have all the fitness Christ wants, and that is none at all. Come to him just as you are. (New Park Street Pulpit, Year 1860, #336 — STRUGGLES OF CONSCIENCE, page 403). -- Bob L. Ross


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