C. H. Spurgeon and Presbyterianism

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Interesting comments by C. H. Spurgeon, though probably not to be taken entirely at face-value. :)

MR SPURGEON A PRESBYTERIAN. – At a social meeting held last week, in London, in connection with the opening of a United Presbyterian Church in Clapham – an edifice which has cost £10,000 – Mr Spurgeon, who was present, delivered an address, in the course of which he made the following emphatic statement. We quote from the report in the Weekly Review:- “He rejoiced that this was a Presbyterian Church; he was a Presbyterian himself. (Hear, and laughter.) Seriously and solemnly, he believed Presbyterianism to be the government Scripture had ordained. He was not an Independent, and he objected altogether to be classed with Independents. He was Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Independent; but rather more Presbyterian than Independent. It might well be that churches should be separate and distinct; but he believed that it was loss of power to the denomination to which he belonged, which might have done greater things if it had not been foolish enough to bind itself to isolation, instead of working by that hearty co-operation which the Presbyterian form of government would have afforded.”

Ballymena Observer, 15 Nov. 1862.


Puritan Board Sophomore
trying to figure out why this is cool...
Spurgeon was baptist and are you saying he wished he was a presbyterian?


Puritan Board Junior
I think there are a lot of Baptists who believe in Presbyterian government but end up in Baptist churches due to their view on baptism.


Puritan Board Senior
I think we'd need a little more, and consistent, and later evidence for this. This was 1862. He was still 28 years old. Not inclined to take it TOO seriously. Interesting nonetheless. His love for the denomination would later wane... a lot!

Oh, and Bapterians need to educate themselves. If you hold the 1689 as your confession then you don't hold presbyterian church government.

Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think there are a lot of Baptists who believe in Presbyterian government but end up in Baptist churches due to their view on baptism.
I would say there are many who lean toward a Presbyterian Ecclesiology but end up in Baptist Churches due to their view on baptism. The way I understand Presbyterian Ecclesiology, paedobaptism is really a part of it. Presbyterian Ecclesiology is more than just the existence of Elders and a Presbytery and their relationship to each other and the local congregations. It is also the relationship between the Lay and the Elders and the Presbytery. If a child or baby of a covenant family cannot receive the sign and seal of baptism their relationship to the chuch is not the same.

However, I do find it very interesting that many of my Reformed Baptist bretheren have Ruling and Ruling & Teaching Elders.

I do love the fact that Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists are all still Brothers and Sisters in Christ despite the differences they have. This shows that Christ is the Weft and Warp that holds the church together more than the Ecclesiology we hold. (However I really do hold Presbyterian Ecclesiology to be the form laid out by scripture.)

Christ is King and Head of the Church Universal and will remain so despite our differences.

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
Spurgeon did organize the Metropolitan Tabernacle around a "presbyterial" form of government. He seemed to clearly embrace to three office view: Ministers, Elders, and Deacons.

“I have always made it a rule to consult the existing officers of the church before recommending the election of new deacons or elders, and I have also been on the look-out for those who have proved their fitness for office by the work they have accomplished in their private capacity. In our case, the election of deacons is a permanent one, but the elders are chosen year by year. This plan has worked admirably with us, but other churches have adopted different methods of appointing their officers. In my opinion, the very worst mode of selection is to print the names of all the male members, and then vote for a certain number by ballot. I know of one case in which a very old man was within two or three votes of being elected simply because his name began with A, and therefore was put at the top of the list of candidates.

My elders have been a great blessing to me; they are invaluable in looking after the spiritual interests of the church. The deacons have charge of the finance; but if the elders meet with cases of poverty needing relief, we tell them to give some small sum, and then bring the case before the deacons. I was once the unseen witness of a little incident that greatly pleased me. I heard one of our elders say to a deacon, “I gave old Mrs. So-and-so ten shillings the other night.” “That was very generous on your part,” said the deacon. “Oh, but!” exclaimed the elder, “I want the money from the deacons.” So the deacon asked, “What office do you hold, brother?” “Oh!” he replied, “I see; I have gone beyond my duty as an elder, so I’ll pay the ten shillings myself; I should not like ‘the Governor’ to hear that I had overstepped the mark.” “No, no, my brother,” said the deacon; “I’ll give you the money, but don’t make such a mistake another time.” --C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol 3, Pages 22-38.

“Behind the upper platform, there are three spacious rooms; in the centre, is the minister’s vestry; to the right and left, are the rooms of the deacons and elders,—the officers of the army on either side of the captain, so that they may be ready to go forward at the word of command.” -- C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol 2, Page 357.

It is clear from these two quotes that Spurgeon (1) affirmed a plurality of elders in the local church and (2) that he conceived of elders as being distinct from a pastor or minister. In other words, he denied the notion of a "parity" of elders. He did not view himself as one of the elders, but as holding an office distinct and superior to them. So the Met. Tab.'s form of government was very much Presbyterian (albeit without the "higher courts").


Puritanboard Commissioner
He did not view himself as one of the elders, but as holding an office distinct and superior to them. So the Met. Tab.'s form of government was very much Presbyterian (albeit without the "higher courts").

I think many Presbyterians would actually differ with this definition of Presbyterianism. I could be wrong, but I think that even three office men would say that TE's and RE's have parity (with regard to votes and authority on the session) but different functions with regard to the ministry of the Word. So there would be a distinction but not necessarily "superiority" despite the fact that non-Presbyterians typically view it otherwise.

With regard to saying "I am Presbyterian" or referring to others that way, I've seen some people, and most often older people, refer to someone (or a church) as being Presbyterian simply because of a plurality of elders and nothing else (i.e. without regard to the issue of infant baptism or a presbytery.) For example, I've seen "traditional" Baptists refer to independent Bible churches that have a plurality of elders as being "Presbyterian." I've seen John MacArthur called Presbyterian more than once.
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