32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 1999
This volumn will make the sincere Christian's heart burn within them. I read this book early in my Christian life and it helped me greatly in understanding the value of developing strong convictions on scriptural doctrines. I have personally given out about one dozen copies of this fine book as gifts to encourage others in their growth in grace. Ian Murray does a fine job in showing Spurgeon, ever valiant for the truth, graciously opposing error in Christ's church and preaching Christ and biblical truth in a more faithful and powerful way than perhaps any other has in the history of the English language. Other than Holy Scripture, I can do no better than to recommend Spurgeon for your reading. This book deals in particular with controversies and doctrinal errors within the British Baptist Union, and the greater professing Evangelical church of the day. Spurgeon displays his love for God and his people by defending His Word, and exhorting His people to believe and obey it. This is perhaps my favorite Spurgeon biography and I heartily recommend it.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2002
This is easily my favorite biography of Spurgeon. Iain Murray covers the passion and beauty of Spurgeon's preaching which is so marvelous to read. He has a way of lifting you up and shaking you around, providing amazing illustrations, and then sending you off with encouragement.
But this aspect of Spurgeon's preaching is what everybody talks about. What nobody talks about, the Forgotten Spurgeon, is his passion for not only preaching, but also for doctrine. This book highlights Spurgeon's battles with Arminians, Hyper-Calvinists, baptismal regenerationists, and modernists. Spurgeon was a devoted Calvinist, and this book shows how centrally Spurgeon viewed Calvinism to his preaching. It was so important to him that he would fight tooth and nail over it, not giving in until confident of doctrinal purity. Spurgeon's doctrine is the forgotten Spurgeon. And this biography is noteworthy for pointing that out.
Recommended reading for learning more about Spurgeon, as well as for learning more about the doctrines of grace.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 1998
Iain Murray's "The Forgotten Spurgeon" sheds light on the great nineteenth century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Having heard Spurgeon called "the prince of preachers" for most of my life, I was surprised to learn that he was a Calvinist. Murray's book helped me to realize that Spurgeon was a great preacher not merely because of his prodigious memory or his natural eloquence, but because of his strong convictions regard the gracious nature of salvation. I would recommend this book for all people, and particularly Baptists, who are struggling with the doctrines of election and predestination.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2005
For various reasons, I have felt the need of late to read about the "Prince of Preachers," none other than C.H. Spurgeon. One impetus is the rather recent trend of some Arminians to try and hi-jack Spurgeon in support of their cause. For example, Dave Hunt in the first edition of his book, _What Love Is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God_, actually stated that Spurgeon not only denied Particular Redemption, but "unequivocally" so (cf. Hunt, 2002, p. 19). Hunt's laughable claim has since been rather easily dismantled elsewhere. A recent publication within my own faith community (which I will be providing a full response to in the months that follow) bears a remarkably similar tactic, alleging Spurgeon to be outside the pale of Calvinist orthodoxy at some junctures. Though it may be intuitively obvious to the Calvinist that such tactics are just that - tactics - still it is profitable to be familiar with the ministry of Spurgeon, one of the Christian Church's great servants.
With this in the back of my mind, I pulled from my bookshelf the other day Iain Murray's book, _The Forgotten Spurgeon_. Though some may be inclined to think this is a biography of Spurgeon , it clearly is not (cf. Murray, 1998, p. 5). _The Forgotten Spurgeon_ is an analysis of Spurgeon's thought and teaching (ibid.). Murray takes his readers through what he considers the three main controversies of Spurgeon's life: (1) Free-will, (2) Sacramentalism, and (3) Liberalism. The latter two are known as the Prayer Book and Down-Grade Controversies respectively. It should also be pointed out that these controversies are listed chronologically as they appeared in Spurgeon's public ministry. Spurgeon's battle with diluted evangelism (AKA Arminianism) was at the forefront near the beginning of his ministry while the Prayer-Book Controversy belonged to 1864 and the Down-Grade Controversy to the last five years of Spurgeon's life (1886-1891).
The last chapter of Murray's book details the fate of Spurgeon's church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, in the years following his death. The declension as interpreted by Murray was a function of American Evangelicalism's influence (e.g. D.L. Moody, Ira Sankey, A.T. Pierson, etc.) and various other forces.
What I absolutely love about _The Forgotten Spurgeon_ is the opulence of citations from Spurgeon, whether they come from his sermons, his magazine (_Sword and Trowel_), or his personal letters. It is clear from the richness of these references that Spurgeon was a hardcore, diehard Calvinist. Truly, then, it is amazing that some Arminians would try and recruit Spurgeon for their smear campaign against Calvinism, especially given that Spurgeon was a prolific author. Indeed, it was relayed to me over the Christmas holidays that no other author - Christian or otherwise - has more material currently in print than C.H. Spurgeon.
What I have grown to love about Spurgeon from this book is his faithfulness to God as manifest in his courage to stand against the heresies of his day. This speaks to my own heart given the tenor of our day. While many ministers in Spurgeon's day justified their decision to avoid conflict by claiming that their time and ministry could be better used in other capacities, Spurgeon disagreed. He once said:
"It is the devil's logic which says, 'You see I cannot come out and avow the truth because I have a sphere of usefulness which I hold by temporizing with what I fear may be false.' O sirs, what have we to do with consequences? Let the heavens fall, but let the good man be obedient to his Master, and loyal to his truth. O man of God, be just and fear not! The consequences are with God, and not with thee." (Cited in Murray, 1998, p. 206)
_The Forgotten Spurgeon_ is all about tearing away the superficial veneer common in popular Christianity, which casts Spurgeon as nothing but a simple soul-winner. Au contraire! Spurgeon was a Calvinist man, a doctrinal man, a man of a "narrow creed," who felt the sting of rejection due, in large part, to the principles he held to. This alone has whetted my appetite for the works of Spurgeon (not to mention the sheer brilliance of this man, which is yet another enticement).
But, again, it must be pointed out that _The Forgotten Spurgeon_ is not a biography. In fact, I would not hesitate to call it a polemic against Arminianism and modern Evangelicalism. In light of this, I doubt that anyone other than a Calvinist would truly enjoy the book. Regardless of one's theological orientation, however, I would think _The Forgotten Spurgeon_ is a seminal work for anyone interested in understanding Spurgeon's theology.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Charles Spurgeon is my favorite preacher of all time. His writings, sermons, and passion for God gives me hope that I too can pursue Jesus with all that is in me.
This book is a short biography of Spurgeon and it focuses on the end of his life with the Down-Grade Controversey as well as what happened to Spurgeon's church, Metropolitan Tabernacle, after his death. It is interesting to see that, despite his preaching and doctrinal teaching to his church, the church abandoned Spurgeon for new models in the early 1900's. Sadly, the church never has regained the prominence it had in London since the death of Charles Spurgeon.
For those who study church growth, this book is a great reminder that only God builds His church. Churches built by men are doomed for failure! When Metropolitan Tabernacle gave in to the spirit of the age (Moody, Torrey, Finney) then the church fell. We must never substitute God's presence for men's traditions (Mark 7:1-13). May the Church of God be faithful to once again proclaim, as Spurgeon so masterfully did, Christ alone and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2003
This really isn't a biography of Spurgeon. Rather, it is a rumination about Calvinism and church organization, filtered through the words and purson of Spurgeon. Well worth the read. It is at times moving, and Murray has a considerable talent for explanation.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2005
This is truly a great work on Spurgeon.
It is by no means trying to give a complete look at his life, but rather is focused at highlighting a few key controversies and aspects of his life that are often obscured in modern analysis of Spurgeon. That is the stated goal of the book, and it suceeds at this.
Even though it is limited in scope, as I have mentioned, it still does a pretty good job at painting a picture of Spurgeon as a whole.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the man named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. It is fairly short and is an enjoyable read with many quotes from Spurgeon's sermons.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
Charles Spurgeon is one of the most quoted preachers of the past. Thousands still read his sermons and writings. Yet few, according to Iain Murray, remember Spurgeon's theology. And even fewer remember his willingness to defend it. The Forgotten Spurgeon is not a normal biography. Instead, Murray's book focuses on the three major controversies of Spurgeon's ministry: his stand for historic Calvinism while at New Park Street in the 1850s, his involvement in the baptismal regeneration debate of 1864, and the Down-Grade controversy of 1887-1891.
Spurgeon's biographers make special note of his popularity while at New Park Street Baptist. Hundreds were turned away each Sunday as the building overflowed with eager listeners. But the doctrine that Spurgeon preached, and the persecution and criticism that he endured because of it, is seldom mentioned. Spurgeon's Calvinism was a favorite target of the general public, news media, and even other pastors. This continued, in fact, throughout his entire ministry. He often felt alone in his defense of what he considered the only true gospel. Others also saw him as standing alone. One wrote: "[Spurgeon] was out of step with everyone else, because John Calvin's ghost 'rode him like a nightmare.' " The prevailing opinion, however, did nothing to modify Spurgeon's defense of the gospel. On one hand he opposed the hyper-Calvinist belief that the gospel should only be preached to the elect. On the other hand, he saw Arminianism as destroying the whole system of theology, promoting superficiality and false assurance, and downplaying true conversion. To Spurgeon, this was more than a question of non-essentials.
The second controversy Murray deals with is the baptismal regeneration debate of 1864. The church of England was moving in a direction that evangelicals considered unacceptable. Much debate centered on questions concerning the use and meaning of the Book of Common Prayer. Spurgeon took the prayer book as a whole to task, arguing that it had no scriptural authority. But his main protest was against the Anglican's growing acceptance of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. To men like Spurgeon and the Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle, this signified a "returning to Rome."
The Down-Grade controversy lasted from 1887 until Spurgeon's death in 1891. As higher criticism gained popularity among Protestants, a disregard for Scriptural authority and denial of Scriptural inspiration also grew, especially within the Baptist churches. Spurgeon's main question now was whether believers should associate with those who advance such error. His conclusion? "Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin." In 1887, Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union. Rather than influencing any of his contemporaries, Spurgeon received a "vote of censure" from the Baptist council. It was this controversy in which Spurgeon was most alone, and in which he drew the most criticism. Regarding it, he remarked to a friend that "The fight is killing me." He died a few months later.
Spurgeon had no desire to be divisive or controversial. He longed, instead, for the day when all believers could worship in unity. His willingness to take a strong stand against error came from "a spirit of compassion towards those who, not only in his own generation, but in ages to come, might be fatally deceived in receiving a gospel which is not a gospel. (Gal. 1:7)." He leaves us with a question that remains applicable today: "Shall truth be sold to keep up a wider fellowship?"
The Forgotten Spurgeon is terrific, though it isn't an easy book. Murray takes us deep into the finer points of Spurgeon's theology. For those interested in more than Spurgeon's methods or personality, and for those who enjoy topics such as vicarious atonement, propitiation, or scriptural inspiration, I highly recommend it. Not only does it teach us about Spurgeon's deepest convictions, but through his resolution, it encourages us to take a stand for the truth.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2012
There are a few books worth reading over and over. The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray is one of them. Murray is quick to point out that his work is not a biography. He does, however, seek to examine Spurgeon's life and pastoral ministry in the context of three major controversies that ensued during his lifetime.
The first controversy involved Spurgeon's battle over "diluted evangelicalism." The second controversy involved his passionate rebuttal of the God-dishonoring doctrine of baptismal regeneration. The third controversy, the so-called Downgrade movement took place from 1887 until his death in 1892.
Spurgeon rightly opposed hyper-Calvinsim for its failure to promote worldwide evangelism. Indeed, hyper-Calvinism "deviates seriously from Scripture and falls short of Scripture." But Spurgeon also rightly opposed Arminiaism and theological liberalism. Murray maintains with Spurgeon, "Arminianism obscures the nature of grace in salvation, while liberalism assails the inerrancy of Scripture and teaches the insufficiency of the written Word."
Spurgeon makes a strong appeal for men on both sides of the doctrinal controversy: "When some of us preach Calvinism, and some Arminianism, we cannot both be right ... Truth does not vacillate like the pendulum which shakes backwards and forwards. It is not like the comet, which is here, there, and everywhere. One must be right; the other wrong" (p. 57).
Spurgeon was an important man for 19th century England. And Spurgeon remains an inspiration to faithful preachers around the world. His commitment to the truth of Scripture, the framework found in the old-paths of the doctrines of grace, and his courage to proclaim these truths serve to strengthen pastors who find themselves in an ongoing ideological battleground. The Prince of Preachers reminds us, "The doctrine which is now rejected as the effete theory of Puritans and Calvinists will yet conquer human thought and reign supreme. As surely as the sun which sets tonight shall rise tomorrow at the predestined hour, so shall the truth of God shine forth over the whole earth" (p. 190).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"The Forgotten Spurgeon" is not so much a comprehensive biography of Charles Spurgeon as it is a description of the major challenges Spurgeon faced as a preacher of the Gospel.
The 3 main challenges mentioned in the book are:
1. 1850s - Diluted evangelicalism and resistance of churches and press of the era - Churches were more concerned about maintaining a "pleasant" sort of Gospel that does not really challenge hearers.
2. 1860s - Calvinism vs. Arminianism - the challenge of the two extremes of God foreordaining who would and would not be saved and the possibility of losing one's own personal salvation.
3. Late 1880s - Early 1890s - Down Grade Controversy - The Gospel and Churches were in danger of being watered down by heresy.
Murray describes how Spurgeon confronted these controversies which eventually led to his persecution and opposition by ministers, the press, and other sources. Interestingly, doesn't this sound familiar to what true Gospel preachers and believers around the world experience today? Just food for thought!
Again, "The Forgotten Spurgeon" is not a true biography like the excellent biography Murray produced on Jonathan Edwards. Instead, the title deals more with the controversies Spurgeon faced during his ministry.
Still, an interesting and informative read. Recommended.