November 14, 2007

What About Spurgeon’s Stand for Doctrinal Purity?

Dear Guests:

Following is a continuation of my Heart to Heart series on Romans 16:17. I have taken this from a chapter in my book In Defense of the Gospel and revised it for use in the “Crossless” gospel controversy we find the Free Grace community engaged in.

Compromising the fundamentals of our faith in order to be accepted by and retain fellowship with our peers is wrong. In his day, Charles H. Spurgeon valiantly fought against false teaching and the compromise of major fundamental doctrines in order to maintain unity. Many believe that this struggle led to his premature death. Although the majority of Spurgeon’s Baptist contemporaries agreed with his doctrinal stand,

They preferred unity above the maintenance of doctrinal purity. He attacked the position by saying, ‘first pure, then peaceable; if only one is attainable, choose the former. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. . . . To pursue union at the price of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus’.” 1

Following are excerpts from an article written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon in 1888. Spurgeon wrote this article to explain why he had separated from the London Baptist Association. From Spurgeon’s article, we learn that we must be willing to separate from those institutions and persons who have strayed from the major tenets of our faith, especially the Gospel.

The Drift of the Times Sound the Alarm!
Separation Not Alone Our Privilege But Our Duty

As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been, “Come ye out from among them.” If I have rejoiced in the loyalty to Christ's truth which has been shown in other courses of action, yet I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil.

The Brethren in the Middle

The brethren in the middle are the source of this clinging together of discordant elements. These who are for peace at any price, who persuade themselves that there is very little wrong, who care chiefly to maintain existing institutions, these are the good people who induce the weary combatants to repeat the futile attempt at a coalition which, in the nature of things, must break down. If both sides could be unfaithful to conscience, or if the glorious gospel could be thrust altogether out of the question, there might be a league of amity established; but as neither of these things can be, there would seem to be no reason for persevering in the attempt to maintain a confederacy for which there is no justification in fact and from which there can be no worthy result, seeing it does not embody a living truth. A desire for unity is commendable. Blessed are they who can promote it and preserve it! But there are other matters to be considered as well as unity, and sometimes these may even demand the first place.

Separation A Duty

Numbers of good brethren in different ways remain in fellowship with those who are undermining the Gospel; and they talk of their conduct as though it were a loving course of action which the Lord will approve of in the day of His appearing. We cannot understand them. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians and yet . . . reject the fundamentals of the Gospel is to come out from among them. . . . Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. If any body of believers had errorists among them but were resolute to deal with them in the name of the Lord, all might come right; but confederacies founded upon the principle that all may enter, whatever views they hold, are based upon disloyalty to the truth of God. If truth is optional, error is justifiable.

The Army of Intermediates Should Cease Being Politic

There are now two parties in the religious world, and a great mixed multitude who from various causes decline to be ranked with either of them. In this army of intermediates are many who have no right to be there; but we spare them. The day will come, however, when they will have to reckon with their consciences. When the light is taken out of its place, they may too mourn that they were not willing to trim the lamp nor even to notice that the flame grew dim.

Our present sorrowful protest is not a matter of this man or that, this error or that, but of principle. There is either something essential to a true faith--some truth which is to be believed--or else everything is left to each man's taste. We believe in the first of these opinions, and hence cannot dream of religious associations with those who might on the second theory be acceptable. Those who are of our mind should, at all costs, act upon it.

Separation, The Only Complete Protest

At any rate, cost what it may, to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God is not alone our liberty but our duty. I have raised my protest in the only complete way by coming forth, and I shall be content to abide alone until the day when the Lord shall judge the secrets of all hearts; but it will not seem to me a strange thing if others are found faithful and if others judge that for them also there is no path but that which is painfully apart from the beaten track. 2

Spurgeon’s sermon in print above is a penetrating reminder that there are doctrinal truths worth contending (Jude 3) over, and if need be making the difficult decision to “mark, avoid” and “withdraw” from brethren (Romans 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:4-6; 14-15).

The current debate over the “Crossless” gospel is one of those truths that meets the criteria for the biblical mandates to “contend” and/or “withdraw.”

To reiterate from Spurgeon, Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. . . . To pursue union at the price of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus’”


1. E. Wayne Thompson, This Day in Baptist History, p. 529.
2. Sword of the Lord, September 9, 1994.

Please proceed to Part 5 of the series, Should Doctrinal Deviations be Dismissed?

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