I love to read biographies of Christian men and women whom God has used in remarkable ways. I am currently reading a biography by Tom Nettles about the life and pastoral theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a Baptist pastor in England during the 1800s whose long-term ministry impacted London, its environs, and the world at large far beyond the capacity of a mere human being. I wish to share with you today two letters excerpted from this biographical work. The first letter chronicles a particular man’s struggles concerning his salvation after attending the Metropolitan Tabernacle where Spurgeon preached for many years. The second is the pastor’s response. The struggles encountered in this human’s life are not limited to himself or that specific era of time but narrates the lives of countless individuals who battle with the deeper issues of understanding their relationship (or lack thereof) with the Lord Jesus. The two correspondences are as follows…
[Inquirer to Mr. Spurgeon]
Dear Sir—would you be kind enough candidly to inform me whether there is any hope that I belong to the elect family of God; whether Jesus Christ His Son has ever died for me, while my affections are in the world. I try to pray, but cannot. I make resolutions only to break them. I listen from time to time when you speak of the glory set apart for the saints, when you describe their feelings, their joys, but I have nothing to do with these things. Oh, sir, that Sunday morning you spoke of the hypocrite, I felt you were describing me. I go to chapel [church], hear the Word preached; go home, make resolutions, go to work, out in the world, and forget all, till the time of preaching comes again. I read the Bible, but with no interest; it seems no more to me than any other work that I have read before; it is to me dry and insipid. Christ has said that all who come to Him He will send none away. How am I to come? I would if I could, but I cannot. At times I think I will give all up and not go to chapel anymore; but when the time comes I cannot stay away, but feel compelled to go once more. Do, dear sir, tell me how I am to find Jesus? How can I know He died for me? And that I belong to His family? Dear sir, tell me, am I a hypocrite?
[Mr. Spurgeon to Inquirer]
Dear Sir—I am glad that you have been able to write to me and state your feelings. Though my hands are always full, it will ever give me joy to receive such notes as yours. You ask me a very important question, “Are you one of God’s elect?” Now, this is a question neither you nor I can answer at present, and therefore let it drop. I will ask you an easier one, “Are you a sinner?” Can you say “YES”? All say, “YES”; but then they do not know what the word “sinner” means. A sinner is a creature who has broken all his Maker’s commands, despised His Name, and run into rebellion against the Most High. A sinner deserves hell, yea, the hottest place in hell; and if he be saved, it must be entirely by unmerited mercy. Now, if you are such a sinner, I am glad to be able to tell you the only way of salvation, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” I think you have not yet really understood what believing means. You are, I trust, really awakened, but you do not see the door yet. I advise you seriously to be much alone, I mean as much as you can; let your groans go up if you cannot pray; attend as many services as possible; and if you go with an earnest desire for a blessing, it will come very soon. But why not believe now? You have only to believe that Jesus is able and willing to save, and then trust yourself to Him. Harbor not that dark suggestion to forsake the house of God; remember you turn your back on Heaven, and your face to hell when you do that. I pray God that He will keep you from doing so. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, He would not have shown you such these things. If you are but a smoking flax, there is hope. Touch the hem of His garment; look to the brazen serpent.
My dear fellow-sinner, slight not this season of awakening. Up, and be in earnest. ‘Tis your soul—your own soul—your eternal welfare—your Heaven or your hell—which is at stake. There is the cross, and a bleeding God-Man upon it—look to Him, and be saved. And there is the Holy Spirit, able to give you every grace. Look in prayer to the Sacred Three-One-God, and then you will be delivered.
Dear Friend—if you, too, are clutched by these circumstances, then let your groans go up to the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Always remember this precious promise in Scripture . . . “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).
In His Grip—Dennis