Saturday, 30 May 2015

Well known Charismatic Christian Leaders: Charles Spurgeon's ministry of Words of Knowledge and Healing

The next few posts are aimed at my cessationist brethren.  A cessationist, remember, is someone who believes that gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, other languages, physical healing, are not for today.  They were only for the times of the early apostles and those who seek these things are in error.

So (through these slightly provocative titles) I will begin by showing how well known leaders admired by cessationists exercised gifts of the Spirit of various kinds.

I used to dislike Charles Spurgeon.  My antagonistic feelings began many years ago, when a good friend of mine joined a reformed evangelical church, very similar to the Ebenezer Reformed Bible Tabernacle in Shieldcastlehope.  My friend began to grow less friendly towards some of my other Christian friends and started picking arguments with people over predestination and freewill.  At the same time, he became an avid student of Charles Spurgeon sermons and biographies.  He told me once that the Pastor of his church had a large poster of Charles Spurgon in his study.  I was unhappy with the direction my friend's spiritual life was going in and to some extent I blamed CHS himself.

This all changed when I began to read some of his sermons, and his book 'Lectures to my Students'.  Hey!  I really like this guy!

So what has been going on here?

I think that people who limit God and in doing so, quench the Spirit, instinctively look for a champion to further their cause.  CH Spurgeon, who was a Calvinist and huge admirer of the Puritans, fits that bill quite well, not least because he had a hugely fruitful and powerful ministry.  He stood against the liberal theologians of his day, warned against emotionalism, he disliked altar calls, he eschewed more superstitious expressions of Christianity and he therefore became a champion of the Reformed faith.

Most books about Spurgeon are written by cessationists and therefore will not say too much about the miraculous elements of his ministry, and he himself downplayed these things.  But I am going to quote now from some biographies of Spurgeon - firstly his own autobiography via this You Tube clip:

Now a quote from 'Spurgeon A New Biography' by Arnold Dallimore (P140).

In view of Spurgeon's own long sickness and that of his wife, it is difficult to believe that many people thought he posessed a "gift of healing".  The best information on this matter is to be found in Russell Conwell's Life of Spurgeon, particularly in his chapter, "Wonderful Healing."
The idea began during the cholera epidemic.  As we saw, Spurgeon visited numerous homes where the disease raged, and there he prayed that the sick one might be made well.  In many instances, in someone who seemed near death the disease was stopped, and before long health returned.  People were sure this was the result of prayer.
During further years Spurgeon prayed for persons in sicknesses of various kinds, and although in many a case there was no betterment, in others there was improvement that appeared miraculous.  Dr Conwell examined several of these experiences and in 1892, the year of Spurgeon's death, he declared:

There are now living and worshipping in the Metropolitan Tabernacle hundreds of people who ascribe the extension of their life to the effect of Mr Spurgeon's personal prayers.  They have been sick with disease and nigh unto death, he has appeared, kneeled by their beds and prayed for recovery.  Immediately the tide of health returned, the fevered pulse became calm, the temperature was reduced, and all the activities of nature resumed their normal functions within a short and unexpected period.  If a meeting were called of all those who attribute their recovery to the prayer of Mr Spurgeon, it would furnish me with one of the most deserved tributes to his memory that could possibly be made.

Conwell goes on to report seven specific instances of what was considered healing in response to Spurgeon's prayers.  "The belief in Mr Spurgeon's healing power became among some classes a positive superstition, and he was obliged to overcome the very false and extravagant expressions... by mentioning the matter from the pulpit, and rebuking the theories of the extremely enthusiastic.  He felt it was becoming too much like the shrines of Catholic Europe."
Spurgeon declared that the subject of divine healing was very much a mystery to him.  He said he prayed about sickness just as he prayed about anything else, and that in some instances God answered with healing, whereas in others, for reasons beyond our understanding, He allowed suffering to continue.

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