On June 5, 1864, Charles Spurgeon delivered a series of two sermons entitled “Baptismal Regeneration” in which he took liberty to essentially charge the ministers in the Church of England with duplicity in that though they would not teach that baptism regenerated the believer, the Church of England,on the other hand, in fact did.
Needless to say, it created quite a firestorm among the clergy and minsiters and even overflowed the shores of the UK and touched down here in America.
Below is an excerpt from Volume 5 of Evangelical Christendom published in 1864 that deals a bit with this sermon series and a short letter written by Octavius in regards to Spurgeons comments.
It should be noted that Winslow made his own comments in this excerpt as a Baptist and not as an Anglican. His switch to the Church of England would later come in 1870.
I’ve had to transcribe this from Google Books, so I do apologize if there are any typos.
“MR. SPURGEON AND CHARITY”
Such is the heading of an article in a transatlantic contemporary, on the heavy indictment brought by the minister of the Surrey Tabernacle against the Evangelical clergy of the Church of England. Mr. Spurgeon will be deemed by those who think that he erred in the language which he held in his sermon entitled “Baptismal Regeneration,” to have aggravated his offence against Christian charity by attempting a justification of it.
Two sermons on the subject, from the same pulpit, have followed that which we have just named, and now we have two letters from Mr. Spurgeon, in one of which he addresses the Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, and resigns his membership in that body, and in the other he appeals to the Christian public, with a view to show that his accusations are neither novel nor singular.
In the first letter he quotes the general resolution of the Alliance which he is believed by Mr. Noel and others to have broken :
That when required by conscience to assert or defend any views or principles wherein they differ from Christian brethren who agree with them in vital truths, the members of this Alliance will aim earnestly, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to avoid all rash and groundless insinuations, personal “imputations, or irritating allusions ; and to maintain the meekness and gentleness of Christ, by speaking the truth only in love.
This rule, he maintains, he has not infringed. “I have not violated the union of believers,” he says, “but those have done so who, knowing the truth and loving it, nevertheless lend their name, their countenance, and their subscription to a lie. Notwithstanding, since some of those honoured brethren who are clear of this sin feel aggrieved by my witness-bearing, and consider that I have broken your regulations, I beg to submit to their evident wish, and do hereby withdraw myself from your Alliance until such time as the brethren whom I have charged with duplicity shall clear themselves of the sin, or you shall ease yourselves of their patronage and association.”
He has “imputed” nothing, he tells us; he has “proved” the brethren in question to be both dishonest and immoral ; yet he has avoided all needless and intentional irritation; and claims to have observed the Alliance rule already quoted far better than Mr. Noel himself!
He also says:
What I have spoken I have spoken. After reading the many attempts at reply, and giving due weight to the expostulations of Mr. Noel, I find no reasons for retraction, but abundant cause to re-assert my testimony with increased emphasis. I impeach before the bar of universal Christendom the men who, knowing that baptism does not regenerate, yet declare in public that it does: if Christendom will not consider the impeachment, let it stand on record before the merciful face of the Great Head of the Church, and let Him do as seemeth Him good.
What “universal Christendom” will reply, we cannot, of course, tell ; but one highly respectable organ of religious opinion, across the Atlantic, has already, under the heading we have quoted, given utterance to what it thinks of Mr. Spurgeon’s “anticipation of the day of judgment.” The Christian Intelligencer of New York, the organ of the Reformed Dutch Church in America, says:
The object of the sermon (“Baptismal Regeneration”) is to expose the unscriptural, unreasonable, and dangerous nature of the error that regeneration is wrought by administration of baptism. The preacher, after showing that, according to the natural meaning of the words, the language used on the subject in the Catechism and the baptismal office of the Anglican Church fairly teaches this doctrine, proceeds to refute it with great force and fervour, presenting the argument in a way well adapted to reach a promiscuous audience. In the course of his argumentation he meets the objection that many good clergymen in the Church do not hold the doctrine. To this his first answer is unobjectionable. He maintains that they preach against the teaching of their own Church, and proceeds: “To take oath that I sincerely assent to a doctrine which I do not believe, would to my conscience appear little short of perjury; but those who do so must be judged by their own Lord.” But very soon he forgets this last sound and scriptural principle. Instead of leaving his brethren to be judged by the Lord, he himself ascends the tribunal and decides the whole case in the most offensive form. He insists that the language of the Prayer-book can mean nothing but Baptismal Regeneration in the baldest form, that the Evangelicals know this, and yet solemnly subscribe to what they do not believe, only for the sake of the emoluments of the clerical office. He charges them with the grossest immorality, with shuffling and equivocation, with dishonesty, with confounding truth and falsehood. If “the books were opened,” and the secrets of all hearts lay plain before his eyes, Mr. Spurgeon could not speak in more positive and unhesitating style than he does, branding a large body of reputable ministers of the Gospel as wanting in the essential element, not only of Christian, but even of common worldly morals.
The curious feature of this anticipation of the day of judgment is, that it is done under a stringent sense of duty. The preacher in his opening affirms that he is loth to undertake the work, but is forced to do it. He knows that it will cost him the friendship of some, and stir up the enmity of more. But he cannot hold his peace. He must deliver his soul. The burden of the Lord is upon him. He feels like a martyr marching to the stake. It is as though angels and men were watching for his utterance, as if the fate of England depended upon his lips, nay, as if the world’s future hung trembling in the balance. “As I am soon to appear at my Master’s bar, I will this day, if ever in my life, bear my testimony for truth, and run all risks.” “It is as much as my soul is worth to hold my peace any longer, and whether you approve or not, I must speak out.” What now is it that, with such an imposing array, such an appeal to the Searcher of Hearts, such solemn protestations, Mr. Spurgeon proceeds to do? Surely it is not an argument against Baptismal Regeneration, nor is it the assertion that the English Prayer-book, understood in the plain, natural sense, teaches this doctrine. These are things which may be said, as they have, times without number, been said, without offence. No, the truth which Mr. Spurgeon feels so solemnly called of God to proclaim and hold forth at all hazards, is that those clergy of the Anglican Church who deny baptismal regeneration, did, when they signed the established formula, solemnly assent to a falsehood, and now get their livings by subscribing to words asserting what they do not believe. Among these have been and are the noblest Christian teachers on earth, men of learning, piety, faith, charity, patterns of every good work, known and recognised by all as genuine disciples, self sacrificing labourers for Christ’s cause. It is not one or two, but a multitude, it is not the present generation only, but all past ones since the Reformation, which have shown this combination of subscription to the” Prayer-book and an earnest, devoted, spiritual evangelism which Mr. Spurgeon has never seen excelled.
Yet he deliberately, as a matter of duty, and in sight of the judgment-seat, proclaims that these men are living with a lie in their right hands. It does not seem to occur to him that they may understand words differently from him; that they may be innocently under a misapprehension; that, if wholly mistaken, still that fact does not prevent God from blessing their labours. No; his conscience compels him to denounce them as dishonest time-servers, and whatever obloquy may befall him on account of this utterance is merely a portion of his martyrs crown, a part of the persecution for righteousness’ sake which all faithful men must endure in this world. The mistake is not a rare one. We dwell upon it here, not because we love Anglican Evangelicals more than other Christians, or because it is pleasant to find fault with Mr. Spurgeon, but because it enables us to call attention to the difference between rebuking a specified course of conduct and determining the motives of men. The one we are to do always in a meek and reverent spirit, at whatever cost. The other we are not to do at any time or to anybody. How dare Mr. Spurgeon say—as in effect he does say, for he makes no exception— that such men as Mr. Ryle hold their livings at the expense of their consciences? How does he, how can he, know this? Suppose these attacked men were to turn around and say that Mr. Spurgeon found that the Evangelical portion of the Establishment were in his way, and that it was necessary for him to weaken their influence, and that therefore he resorted to this hold and daring charge of time-serving immorality; what reply could he make? Plainly none. The question of motive lies in the hidden recesses of the heart. “The day will declare it;” but till “that day’ come, let Christian men remember that to their own Master they all stand or fall. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
A brother minister of Mr. Spurgeon’s, Dr. Octavius Winslow, of Bath, has also given expression to his views upon the subject.
Preaching from Eph. 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” he said:
To denounce the Evangelical clergy of the Church of England because they do not preach the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; to stigmatise their conduct on this ground as “equivocal and shuffling,” their course as “inconsistent and dishonest,” as “one of the gravest pieces of immorality perpetrated in England,” as ministers “whose friendship honest men neither ask nor accept,” is to come under the censure, in its greatest breadth, which our Divine Master once pronounced upon those who breathed a like spirit of condemnation, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” I have no right to stand between God and a man’s conscience. Who made me a judge of my brother? To his own Master he stands or falls.
It were an impertinence and a presumption in me to foist my interpretation of any article of faith subscribed to by a body of godly men, either upon their conscience or their ministry. It is enough for me that the Evangelical clergy of the Church of England ignore, as I ignore, the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, and preach, many of them with far more sympathy and power than I preach, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. My firm conviction is, that not one of the 9,000 Evangelical clergy of this land really believes that the Church of England teaches that doctrine. He honestly believes the contrary, and so he subscribes, and so he preaches.
I have heard many of them assert that, had the decision in the Gorham case been adverse to their convictions of truth, in other words, had the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council pronounced that the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration was the true teaching of the Church of England, they would have seceded from her ministry. I am bound, therefore, in the exercise of Christian charity, to believe that the Evangelical clergy do not interpret the Articles as teaching this doctrine, and therefore cannot justly be denounced as “swearing to one thing, and preaching another,” thus guilty, in its most appalling sense, of perjury and dishonesty. . . . I dare not arraign and judge my ministering brethren of the Church of England, than whom—I speak it honestly and in love—there are not found in any one branch of the Church of Christ a more God-fearing, spiritually-minded, earnest, and zealous body of men.
Were I to withdraw my affection, fellowship, and friendship from these men of God, I must renounce all reverence for the sacred memories of the Romanies, the Cecils, the Simeons, the Richmonds, the Martyns, the Bickersteths of the past age; and must relinquish communion and friendship with the Marshes, the M’Neils, the Stowells, the Venns of the present.
Were these men, are these men, “perjured, dishonest, immoral?” I shudder at the thought.
The learned Dean of Ripon thinks that Mr. Spurgeon is to be pitied, because:
His entire want of acquaintance with theological literature leaves him utterly unfit for the determination of such a question, which is a question, not of mere doctrine, but of what may be called historical theology; and his charges are just a parallel to those which the Romanists could bring against himself as well as others for his interpretation of the words, “This is my body.” But were he a wiser man than he is, he would know better what his qualifications are for passing judgment on such a point, and be willing to learn from such facts, among others, as the Gorham judgment and the cases of Mr. Maskell and Mr. Mozley, what ground there is for his charges against the Evangelical clergy.
Let him hold and enforce his own view of doctrine as he pleases; but when he undertakes to determine what is the exclusive meaning of the Book of Common Prayer, and brings a charge of dishonesty against those who I take a different view of that meaning from what he does, he only shows the presumptuous self confidence with which he is prepared to pronounce judgment upon matters of which he is profoundly ignorant. To hold a controversy with him upon the subject would be to as little purpose as to attempt to hold a logically-constructed argument with a child unacquainted with logical terms.
On the other hand, the Rev. William Brock, of Bloomsbury, has published a letter to Mr. Spurgeon, vindicating and encouraging him, though he thinks Mr. Spurgeon might have been less personal and might have expressed his personalities less distastefully. “There are two or three sentences,” he says, “at which, had I been an ecclesiastical descendant of Toplady and Romaine, I should have been, I think, somewhat righteously displeased.” But he contends that attention ought not to be fixed exclusively on those sentences.
The Rev. William Landels, another Baptist minister, goes further, and not only defends Mr. Spurgeon, but declares that on account of what he has said, he has been “persecuted,” which can only mean—as a correspondent of the Patriot points out—that his opponents use “hard words,” of which ‘” he set the fashion.” From forty to fifty replies to Mr. Spurgeon have been issued, and the controversy still continues.