Charles Spurgeon: A Premillennialist

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was well known in his day as a greatly used-of-God Baptist preacher.  It is said that when he was pastoring the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London that taxis would roam the streets just prior to meeting time calling out “Ride to hear Charlie”.  Each Monday morning one of his previous sermons would be available throughout London in printed form.  These “Penny Pulpits” were bound into 36 volumes of some 52 sermons each and are still read by thousands around the world.  He “being dead yet speaketh” and people are still being saved through his sermons.

Spurgeon was a Bible preacher.  He preached it “like it was”.  He had an “all round ministry”.  In other words he kept records of the subjects he preached on and was careful to yearly cover the major doctrines of the Word of God so that his hearers would receive a balanced diet.

Because of the thousands of his sermons in print it is possible for someone to pick only sermons which deal with a certain subject and present them together, making it appear that subject was all he emphasized.  This is nothing less than deceitful and malicious representation of a man who was concerned about an “all round ministry”.  Perhaps Hyper-Calvinists are most guilty of this in an effort to make Spurgeon appear as one of them.  The truth is that while Spurgeon often preached on the five points of Calvinism, he just as often preached on man’s responsibility in receiving Christ as his Saviour.  It is said Spurgeon once prayed, “Lord save the elect and elect some more”.  Did he preach both sides because he was double minded?  Certainly not! He was simply honest enough to know the two positions meet only in the mind of God – as two rails on a train track run parallel but appear to meet in the distance.

Spurgeon Was Premillennial

It may surprise some of our readers to hear Spurgeon believed in the premillennial return of Christ.  Amillennialism has vilified him in this regard to the extent that some think he was amillennial himself.

Writing under the heading “God’s Sense Stands First” and commenting on Zechariah (specifically 2:12) Spurgeon stated: “It is evident that this vision and prophecy graciously reveal the future history of Jerusalem.  You may spiritualize, if you will, and say that Jerusalem signifies the Church: but I pray you not to forget the literal meaning of such words as these in the twelfth verse – ‘The Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again’.  Jerusalem is spoken of, and Jerusalem is meant.  A man with a measuring line is about to measure the length and breadth of the city; he appears to be interrupted in his work by another angel, who foretells that so greatly shall Jerusalem extend, that she will be as a town without walls, for the number of men and cattle that shall be therein.  This prophecy has not as yet been fulfilled: it may have had some partial fulfilment in those times of peace before the coming of the Saviour, but even then Jerusalem was surrounded by a triple wall; and though it is truth that there was a large suburban population, yet the city was not even then ‘as towns without walls’, nor was the glory of God in the midst of her in any eminent degree.  I believe this passage refers to a happy and glorious future yet to come, when the city of Jerusalem shall have no walls, except the protection of the Lord, but shall be extended far and wide.  The Jewish people and their royal city shall remain the centre of the manifestations of divine glory, just as the city of London still remains the centre of the metropolis; but the nations of the earth shall be joined unto the Lord: so that while Jerusalem remains the city of the Great King, the faithful among the people of all nations shall be, as it were, a suburban population to the chosen city, and the kingdom of Messiah shall extend far and wide.  Jerusalem will be rebuilt in more than her former splendour; the Jews will be restored to their own land; and Messiah will reign as a prince of the house of David.  We cannot understand many portions of Scripture except upon this belief.  If it be so, it appears according to this prophecy that God shall be the protection of this great city, and the glory in the midst of her.  All her sons shall be gathered from their distant wandering places; and where they have associated themselves with Antichrist, they shall hear the voice which saith, ‘Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.’  Christ Himself shall fulfil His promise, ‘Lo, I come’; the nations shall be judged; God shall shake His hand over all lands and give them as a spoil unto His people; Zion shall sing and rejoice; her Lord and King shall dwell in the midst of her; many nations shall join themselves unto Jehovah, and He, from shore to shore shall reign, while all flesh is silent before Him, because He is raised up out of His holy habitation.

I am not given to prophesying, and I fear that the fixing of dates and periods has been exceedingly injurious to the whole system of premillennial teaching; but I think I clearly see in Scripture that the Lord Jesus will come – so far I go, and take my stand – that He will come personally to reign upon this earth.  At His coming it appears clear to me that He will gather together the Jewish people, that Jerusalem shall become the metropolis of the new empire which shall then extend from pole to pole, from the river even to the ends of the earth.  If this be a correct interpretation of prophecy, you may read the whole of this chapter though and understand it; you have the key to every sentence: without such a belief, I see not how to interpret the prophet’s meaning.

Dear friends, we may sometimes refresh our minds with a prospect of the kingdom which is soon to cover all lands, and make the sun and moon ashamed by its superior glory.  We are not to indulge in prophesyings as some do, making them our spiritual food, our meat and drink; but still we may take them as choice morsels, and special delicacies set upon the table; the condiments which may often give a sweeter taste, or, if you will, a greater pungency and savour to other doctrines; prophetic views light up the crown of Jesus with a superior splendour; they make his manhood appear illustrious as see Him still in connection with the earth; to have a kingdom here as well as there; to sit upon a throne here as well as in yonder skies; to subdue His adversaries even upon this Aceldama, as in the realm of spirits; to make even this poor earth upon which the trail of the serpent is so manifest, a place where the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

If your view of prophecy be the correct one, it seems to be in perfect harmony with all the doctrines of the gospel.  God certainly did elect His people the Jews; He made a covenant with His servant Abraham, and albeit you will remind us that this was only a temporal covenant, I would remind you that it was the type of the spiritual one, and it would be an unhappy reflection for us if the typical covenant should prove to be only temporary as well as temporal; if that came to an end, and if God cast away, in any sense, the people whom He did foreknow, it might augur to us the ill foreboding that mayhap He might cast away His spiritual seed also, and that those who were chosen as the spiritual seed of Abraham, might yet be cut off from the olive into which they had been grafted.  If the natural branches are cast away for ever, why not the grafted branches too?  But here is our joy, the God Who sware unto His servant Abraham that to him and to his seed would He give the land for ever, hath not gone back on His word, they shall possess the land; their feet shall joyously tread its fruitful acres yet again; they shall sit every man under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; and so the spiritual seed to whom the spiritual heritage is given as by a covenant of salt, they also shall possess their heritage for ever, and of their rightful portion no robber shall despoil them”.

Spurgeon’s honest interpretation of the Scriptures is to be admired.  Unlike Amillennialists who base their belief on the teaching of Origen (a third century heretic) and Augustine (who developed it into the doctrine of Roman Catholicism), Spurgeon did not believe God spoke with a double tongue – saying one thing and meaning another.  As a result Spurgeon, like anyone who seeks to understand God’s word literally, was a premillennialist.

Did He Change His Belief?

There are those who argue Spurgeon was premillennial in the early days of his ministry, but later changed his position.  To answer the question, let’s look at a Statement of Faith signed by Spurgeon himself.

In an article published in August 1891 (the year before Spurgeon’s death) explanation was given as to how a Statement of Faith signed by Spurgeon came to be.  The purpose of the article was to establish the fact that Spurgeon was not the only the author of the Confession of Faith, but he certainly believed it.

“About eighteen months ago, the seven brethren, whose names appear at the head of the above list, banded together as a ‘Fraternal’; and from time to time they have invited other like-minded brethren to join them.  Membership is not confined to Baptists.  Dr Sinclair Paterson belongs to the brotherhood, as did the late Dr Adolph Safir, until he was called to the presence of the Lord he had so long and faithfully served.  Several public meetings have been held, at which clear testimony upon the fundamental doctrines of the gospel have been given by various members.  In addition, many private gatherings for prayer and consultation upon the Word and work of the Lord have taken place.  At one of these, it was suggested (not, however, by Mr Spurgeon) that the time had arrived when attention should be called, through the religious and secular press of the country, to certain truths which, in many quarters, are either ignored or rejected.  The suggestion met with general approval, a committee was appointed to prepare the document; in due time it was submitted to the whole company, and when the exact wording had been settled, each member signed it in the form in which it has been published to the church and the world.  It might just as well be called ‘Mr Archibald Brown’s Confession of Faith’, or Mr White’s, or Mr Hooper’s, or Dr Paterson’s.  It is as much theirs as it is Mr Spurgeon’s, and as much his as theirs; but no more appertaining to any one of the thirty than to all the rest.

It is certainly a ‘confession of faith’ in this sense, that the brethren whose names are appended to it do believe what they there state, and they are not ashamed to confess their faith before any number of witnesses; but no one of them would think regarding this short statement as a full declaration of all that he believes about the great verities of God.  As for ‘Mr Spurgeon’s Confession of Faith’, any one who wants to read that will find it ‘writ large’ in the thirty-six volumes of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.  If the reading of two thousand two hundred sermons is too great a task for the searcher after ‘Mr Spurgeon’s Confession of Faith’, he will be able to get a condensation of it in the President’s Address delivered at the last College Conference.  We venture to repeat here almost the last words written by Mr Spurgeon before his illness:

The Greatest Fight in the World is our testimony for the present moment.  It is to be had in a neat form, and at a very small price – namely, sixpence.  Nothing would please us more than to see it scattered by scores of thousands, and rousing a controversy on essential truths…Those of our readers who abhor modern heresies, will be our true allies if they will help us in scattering this bombshell where it may do execution.  In this address we speak without bitterness, but also without reserve.  The present policy of the Down-grade men is to be quiet and cautious; but we shall no more copy their method than their doctrine.  Our speech is outspoken.  Friends will be pleased to know that the demand for the first edition far exceeds our expectations.  Why not go in for fifty thousand?

We draw our reader’s attention to two things.  Spurgeon believed what he signed and was not ashamed to confess it.

Notice also it was written in the latter days of his life.  They were ‘almost the last words written by Mr Spurgeon before his illness’. 

Now let’s see what he believed:

Spurgeon’s Confession of Faith

“We, the undersigned, banded together in Fraternal Union, observing with growing pain and sorrow the loosening hold of many upon the Truths of Revelation, are constrained to avow our firmest belief in the Verbal Inspiration of all Holy Scripture as originally given.  To us, the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but is the Word of God.  From beginning to end, we accept it, believe it, and continue to preach it.  To us, the Old Testament is no less inspired than the New.  The Book is an organic whole.  Reverence for the NEW Testament accompanied by scepticism as to the OLD appears to us absurd.  The two must stand or fall together.  We accept Christ’s own verdict concerning ‘Moses and all the prophets’ in preference to any of the supposed discoveries of so-called higher criticism. 

We hold and maintain the truths generally known as ‘the doctrines of grace’. The Electing Love of God the Father, the Propitiatory and Substitutionary Sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ, Regeneration by the Holy Ghost, the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, the Justification of the sinner (once for all) by faith, his walk in newness of life and growth in grace by the active indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and the Priestly Intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ, as also the hopeless perdition of all who reject the Saviour, according to the words  of the Lord in Matt 25:46, ‘These shall go away into eternal punishment’ – are, in our judgment, revealed and fundamental truths.

Our hope is the Personal Pre-millennial Return of the Lord Jesus in glory.

Signed C. H. Spurgeon (followed by twenty-nine others”

There can be no doubt about it.  Charles H. Spurgeon believed in the premillennial return of Christ.

This article, written by Sidney W. Hunter, was taken complete from “Biblical Fundamentalist”, Vol 30 No. 10, October 1997, Published by E. L. E. Trust, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.