April 29, 2011

Archival Series- Lordship Salvation: Charles Spurgeon’s Personal Testimony Speaks Against It

The following is taken from Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore (Moody Press, 1984), pages 18-20.

The story of Spurgeon’s conversion is widely known, but it may well be repeated, and it cannot be better told than in the words in which he himself presented it:

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved....

The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.

The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is
just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

"But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!" he said in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now.
Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood.
Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!

When he had . . . . managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.

Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do,
“Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought . . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them,
of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.” Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say—

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die. . .

That happy day when I found the Saviour, and learned to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me . . . .
I listened to the Word of God and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ. I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped, I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of that hour. Many days of Christian experience have passed since then, but there has never been one which has had the full exhilaration, the sparkling delight which that first day had.

I thought I could have sprung from the seat in which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren . . . “I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace!
A sinner saved by blood!”

My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Jesus Christ, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock and my goings established . . . .

Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home,
what a change had taken place in me! Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, “Something wonderful has happened to you,” and I was eager to tell them all about it. Oh! there was joy in the household that day, when all heard that the eldest son had found the Saviour and knew himself to be forgiven.
(Taken from Iain Murray, ed., The Early Years (London: Banner of Truth, 1962), p. 87-90).

OBSERVATIONS (by George Zeller)
1) Notice how Christ-centered the gospel presentation was.

2) Notice that due emphasis was placed on the death and resurrection of Christ, the all-sufficient Saviour (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

3) Notice how God used the “foolishness of preaching” to save Spurgeon, and that the focus was on Christ and Him crucified (compare 1 Cor. 1:20-25).

4) Notice how Spurgeon was instructed to look away from SELF and to focus on the SAVIOUR.

5) Notice that the emphasis of the sermon was upon LOOKING, not DOING. He was to look in the direction of Christ and he was not told to focus on fulfilling any requirements. The only requirement was that he LOOK.

6) Notice how simple the terms of salvation were: “Look and live!” “Trust Christ and you shall be saved.”

7) Notice that the substitute preacher did not say anything about the terms of discipleship and the demands that are incumbent upon every saved person to follow and obey Christ.

8) Notice that the substitute preacher did not tell Spurgeon to “submit to Christ’s Lordship” or “fulfill the terms of discipleship” or “turn from and forsake all sin” or “hate father, mother, wife, children, etc.” These things are the rightful results of salvation but not the simple terms of salvation.

9) Notice Spurgeon’s joyful conclusion: “Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair.” “Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’”

For a wonderful sermon by Spurgeon dealing with the question of what a person needs to do to be saved, see his sermon entitled, “The Warrant of Faith” available from Pilgrim Publications, Box 66, Pasadena, TX 77501.
Reprinted by permission from George Zeller.

With the reading of Spurgeon’s personal testimony I am reminded of the beautiful hymn Look and Live, (William A. Ogden, 1887). Following are the four stanzas and refrain:

I’ve a message from the Lord, hallelujah!
The message unto you I’ll give,
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

Look and live, my brother, live!
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

I’ve a message full of love, hallelujah!
A message, O my friend, for you,
’Tis a message from above, hallelujah!
Jesus said it, and I know ’tis true.

Life is offered unto you, hallelujah!
Eternal life thy soul shall have,
If you’ll only look to Him, hallelujah!
Look to Jesus who alone can save.

I will tell you how I came, hallelujah!
To Jesus when He made me whole:
’Twas believing on His name, hallelujah!
I trusted and He saved my soul.

If you’d enjoy singing this treasured hymn with piano accompaniment see Look & Live

This article originally appeared August 10, 2009 with a 56 comment discussion thread afterward.

Please continue this series at- Lordship Salvation: Charles Spurgeon Speaks (more than once) Against It


  1. Funny that Spurgeon was a Calvinist...which should break lots of our theories!

    Thanks for the good post,

    Fred Lybrand
    Back to Faith

  2. Thanks Fred, appreciate your raising that point.