Note: I wrote this review in 2003 and placed it on Amazon:
I still agree with the general premise of this review. However, since that time, I've come to love Spurgeon's writings even more. Although I'm still not a fan of his duty-faith preaching, Spurgeon loved the doctrine of Christ and exalted Him throughout all of his sermons and writings. My opinion of Spurgeon has changed. However, if you notice in this review, despite his inconsistencies, I have always considered him a brother and a man raised by God. I very much dislike the railings upon Spurgeon today by some in the sovereign grace camp. Some of them have even recently called him and Susannah secret satanists! The level of hate and vitriol exhibited by these men and women on Facebook is in my opinion exhibitive of their own rotten souls who have no knowledge of Christ.
I have changed a lot since this time nearly 20 years ago when I wrote this. As you can see at the time of the writing I was enthralled with the Van-til and Clark debate. Now I simply don't care. Also I am a bit too hard on Spurgeon in my review - a bit too arrogant, and a bit too big for my britches. However the core of my beliefs have not changed since that time. I'm still very much against Gospel offerism and consider it to be an affront to the Gospel.
I no longer can find my copy of this book, so I'm going to order another one and read it with a different perspective. I particularly enjoy Ian Murray's scholarship and historical knowledge and quotations of other authors. I'll try to glean from it what I can and keep it in my library as a reference. - Brandan Kraft, August 6, 2021.
December 30, 2003
1. Murray exalts Spugeon as the end-all and be-all of Calvinism. I get the impression that if you dare go further than Spurgeon in your understanding of Scripture you are out of line with historical "orthodox" Calvinism. I can see how the errors of Van-Til became prevalent in the 20th century when someone as Spurgeon is exalted as the greatest theologian who ever lived! Throughout much of Spurgeon's sermons he contradicts himself and then claims we have to "swallow" these contradictions "through faith." Spurgeon whom I admire and consider a genuine brother had many flaws including his hermeneutical methods.
2. I think it's sad that the Banner of Truth speaks more highly of Wesley than they do of John Gill. John Gill ferociously fought the free will blasphemies of John Wesley and wrote a book that in my opinion is the greatest exegetical book on the doctrines of Sovereign Grace ever written. To sneer and call this book the "keystone" of hyper-calvinism is to bring reproach to this man who I believe did more to influence British Particular Baptist theology than any other man. If there was not a Gill, I wonder if there would have been a Spurgeon. Sadly, most Calvinistic Baptists today esteem Bunyan, SKIP GILL, and then proclaim Andrew Fuller and Charles Spurgeon as the greatest Calvinists of all time! I think it's interesting that this very thing is being repeated in this day in Presbyterianism with the history of Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til. I have been definitely helped by Gill's writings.
3. Murray, and I quote, states that "the denial of any love in God except love to the elect (p. 99)" is Hyper-Calvinism. Murray, along with Spurgeon seem to think that if you deny that God loves all men, both elect and reprobate, then you have no gospel worth bringing before sinners. Spurgeon and Murray both affirm that unless you can say, "God wants you to be saved", then you cannot speak the gospel of "love." Murray exalts God's love as His chief attribute, and I don't think he has any authority in Scripture to do that. I believe God's chief end to everything is to glorify Himself, and all of His attributes work in harmony to bring about that result.
4. What is "human responsibility" concerning salvation? Is not salvation entirely by God's free grace alone? Do men have to "do something" in order to be saved? That is exactly what Murray and Spurgeon are advocating, and those that deny this are to be considered as a Hyper-Calvinist! Men have a responsibility to believe the Gospel and repent of their sins, but they do not have a duty to be saved or to do anything that would LEAD to their salvation because Salvation is already accomplished. Christ entered in ONCE by His own blood into the holy place, having OBTAINED eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). Christ actually accomplished what He set out to do as the Bible states, "he shall save his people from their sins." (Mat. 1:21b). When Christ received that bitter vinegar and uttered, "It is finished," it truly was a done deal! There is nothing to "offer" for men out of duty to accept or reject as it's already been accomplished.
Just because I don't believe God loves the reprobate or desires that the reprobate turns from his sins to life in Christ does not mean I cannot preach the gospel of Supreme Grace. Just because those of us who do not believe God loves all men and that the gospel is not an "offer" that God sincerely desires the reprobate to "accept" does not mean that we cannot keep from proclaiming Christ's death and resurrection to men as the Spirit leads us in providence. We do not know who God's elect are in their unregenerate state, and therefore we must be faithful to preach the love of Christ for His people, His life of obedience, His atoning sacrifice, and God's imputation of Christ's righteousness which is received to the conscience of an individual through faith alone. We must be faithful to be indiscriminate with the presentation of the gospel to all men.
5. Considering the history of the label, "hyper-calvinist", it is difficult to actually ascertain a true definition. Some claim that hyper-calvinists are "fatalists", "do nothingers", "hardshellers", or "anti-means". Others state boldly that belief in doctrines such as justification from eternity or supralapsarianism classifies one as a "hyper-calvinist". I have even heard that a hyper-calvinist is a person who goes "beyond" Calvin in their soteriology, or goes beyond the "reformed" creeds. It is my opinion that the term "hyper-calvinist" is used historically and primarily as a derogatory and defamatory term to persuade others against the doctrines a particular person might hold. It's certainly easier to slap a label on an individual and condemn them for wearing that label rather than to actually roll up one's sleeves and engage these "heretics" in the realm of systematic theology and biblical hermeneutics. Sadly this is exactly what Murray has done, and in my opinion fails miserable at it.