Sunday, June 06, 2010

Spurgeon, Puritans and Depression

Charles Spurgeon had a distaste for "modern thought".  He said, "We are satisfied with the theology of the Puritans."

Nobody wants to pick on the beloved Spurgeon.  But how much better off he would have been to say, "We are satisfied with the theology of the BIble."

Spurgeon suffered from bouts of depression.

In the reading of many of his sermons and several biographies of his life, I am convinced that the catalyst, if not the cause, of his depression was his immersion in the Puritans.

Whether connected physiologically to his brain chemistry or not, I'm convinced that his depression was brought on by the confusion he was subjected to by the Puritans.

1. His Bible taught him to gaze upon Christ...

...the Puritans taught him to look to himself in introspective examination of his wicked and deceitful heart.

2. His Bible taught him "It is finished"...

...the Puritans taught him that he must "persevere"...or else.

3. His Bible taught him that the New Covenant was unilateral, accomplished entirely by God...

...the Puritans dragged him over the blessing/cursing coals of the Old Covenant, never rightly dividing the Old from the New, a la Hebrews 8.

4. His Bible taught him that he was a Saint who sins...

...the Puritans taught him that he was a Sinner who was also sorta a Saint.

5. His Bible taught him that sin shall no longer be master over us because we are not under law, but under grace...

...the Puritans taught him that he might have been initially saved by grace, but he surely was now under law.

6. His Bible taught him that he had been given a new heart by God, one that loves Christ and hates sin...

...the Puritans taught him that his heart was deceitful and desperately wicked, confusing the regenerate with the unregenerate.

7. His Bible taught him that he could rejoice in the assurance of his salvation...

...the Puritans taught him, "Not so fast, Buster! Do you KNOW you're saved? 100% sure? C'mon, you know what a wretched creature you are! Will you stay till the end? That's the question! Are you properly aware of your sin, such that you daily grovel and weep and mourn for it? I didn't think so! You probably don't even weep and wail for the lost, do you? Huh?! Huh?! And you call yourself a preacher! You may fancy yourself a worker for God, but do you match US? Do you put in 18 hours a day? Do you visit the poor and needy and lost until you're exhausted? I didn't think so. Not so fast, Buster!"

8. His Bible taught him that if he would walk by the Spirit, he would not fulfill the lusts of the flesh...

...the Puritans taught him that if he would not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, he MAY be able to walk by the Spirit.

9. His Bible taught him, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage..."

...the Puritans taught him that if he strived hard enough, he might rid himself of his bondage, though they weren't too sure, since they had not rid themselves of theirs.
Obviously there were exceptions to the above caricature of the Puritans. They themselves were confused many times, and so it's no surprise that they would confuse others.

But such mingling of Old Covenant and New Covenant means mingling grace and works, freedom and bondage, joy and condemnation, assurance and doubt.

And it's not just Spurgeon. Such confusion is the norm when one immerses themselves in Covenant Theology.

We don't need "modern thought".

We need ancient New Covenant thought.


Revol said...

I was being taught all those old covenant beliefs when I attended the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
So glad I left there. :)

Terry Rayburn said...

I hear you, Michael. I'm glad, too :)

Pastor Skip Cook said...

From what I can tell the only good thing the Puritans left us with was a good work ethic. To much of the conflict still lingers in the church.

Anonymous said...

Io found this sermon that is encouraging in that it shows that while he did see himself as in debt to the Puritans for thier wisdom, he did make a very necessarry corrective thanks to his study of Scripture.
In the sermon he disagreed strongly with the puritans in regards to a doctrine called the "gospel warrant" which was a particularly pernicious doctrine that kept sinners from putting thier faith in Christ.

As for his belief in being a sinner (that is, having indwelling sin) while also being justified, rather than leading to despair, actually acted as an encouragement to saints who still found sin in thier hearts and lives. Granted, the idea of having two natures isn't proven from Scripture in so many words, it does teach that the flesh and the soul war against one another. Still, I would be lying if I didn't see some problems and issues with the Puritans as well. When Charles Leiter preached on Justification, I really found his understanding a helpful corrective. It didn't go into the ditch of perfectionism, but it also didn't go on the other ditch of the carnal Christian.

Brent said...

whoops, that last post was mine. I didn't mean to post as anonymous.

covnitkepr1 said...

I am inviting you to follow my blog. I see from several posts back that you defend sound doctrine. If you were to put a followers widget on your blog I'd sign right up.

Vicki said...

Wow, very insightful. I've always loved Spurgeon and could relate all too well with his struggle with depression. I assumed he had an organic brain illness, but any confusion about Old Covenant and New Covenant teachings would surely take its toll on any of us. So thankful for this Grace in which we stand.

Terry Rayburn said...

Thanks y'all for your comments.

Bhedr said...

In spite of this, he did lead many out of the woods that the Puritans created because he did look to Christ.

We do indeed need to put the Word of God first for of many Puritan books there is no end and much study of them is wearisome to the flesh, but faithful are the words of the One true Shepherd.

Terry Rayburn said...

True, Brian. When he was preaching Jesus and His grace, there was none better.

"of many Puritan books there is no end and much study of them is wearisome to the flesh,"

LOL or :( one or the other :)

Romans Twelve One said...

I guess this comment may not make the cut, as I fear your "new covenant" hybrid emphasis leads you to be unduly critical of the puritans, and it appears, Spurgeon's appreciation of the same. I say kindly (I trust) but candidly, I wouldnt take a bucket full of antinomain, dispensational "new covenant" preachers for even a poor imitation of Spurgeon, or the puritans for that matter. I am yours in Christian hope, David L.

Terry Rayburn said...

Romans 12:1,

And your point is?

I trust your point is not disagreeing with the New Covenant, nor with Hebrews 8 which says the Old Covenant is obsolete and replaced by the New Covenant.

Romans Twelve One said...

How does one "disagree" with the new covenant? The new covenant is a fact. If that makes over half the Scripture the "Word of God Emeritus" to you, it is you who suffer loss. The establishment of a new covenant does away with the old COVENANT, but it does not do away with the veracity, utility and rich truth of the OT. Psalm 119:113. If that doesnt fit your form of dispensationalism, I am sorry for your loss, but I will sleep soundly tonight. Christian Regards, David (PS, I did chuckle some at the dismissive snide remark of "Pastor Skip Cook," who doubtless couldnt hobble 10 yards in a puritan's shoes in his race to the nearest dispensational "prophetic conference.")

Terry Rayburn said...

Romans Twelve One,

You have a talent which I'm sure fools some.

It's a common talent among many, but legalists seem more talented than most.

It's the talent for constructing straw men, instead of addressing the issues.

Since straw men are easy to knock down, you fool the unwary by making it look like you've actually said something relevant.

But of course you haven't.

For example, you wrote, "it [the New Covenant] does not do away with the veracity, utility and rich truth of the OT."

If you can show me ONE example of where I denied in any way "the veracity, utility and rich truth of the OT", I will write a write a whole new post, PUBLICLY REPENTING of my foolishness.

But, of course, you can't.

I wonder if you even read my post, since you didn't interact with any of it's content.

Anonymous said...

The Bible says both covenants are with the nation of Israel.

David L. said...

Sadly, not everyone who uses the term "straw man" uses it aright, but I suppose it will impress those less careful in cognitive function. I will add, if I earn the term "legalist" for daring to appreciate Spurgeon and the Puritans, so be it. I hope your disdain for Spurgeon, the Puritans and apparently all who are not flaming antinomians earns you respect for whatever esoteric circles you travel in. Finally I suspect your feigned love of the OT convinces no one but yourself, and yet, I do hope I have misunderstood you and your dispensational approach, and that you do indeed find utility in ALL of Scripture. With Christian Regards, David L.

Terry Rayburn said...


The gentile believers have been "grafted in", and thus are included in the New Covenant.

1 Cor. 11:25 applies Jesus' words about His blood of the New Covenant to the Church:

"In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'”

And 2 Cor. 3:6 speaks of

"who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Obviously the Church, not national Israel.

Terry Rayburn said...


Other than your

a. misrepresenting me as having "disdain" for Spurgeon and the Puritans (I don't), and

b. implying that I'm a "flaming antinomian" (I'm not), and

c. judging my heart saying I "feign" love for the OT, and

d. dismissing me as a Dispensationalist (I'm not),

you really made some great biblical points.

(That last part is a joke, David)

Your rude attitude doesn't fit with your "Christian regards".

Maybe you just had a bad day.

Anonymous said...

Curious. I posted a lengthy reply. It does not seem to be here. Perhaps a glitch? One hopes.

Robert N. Landrum said...

Have you ever read a book by a puritan? If so which book. You should realize that Spurgeon was a puritan!

Terry Rayburn said...


1. Of course, I've read MANY books by Puritans.

2. Spurgeon was certainly NOT a Puritan.

The Puritans were a sort of reform movement springing out of the Church of England, and thus were infant baptizers (although some Baptists like John Bunyan are sometimes lumped in with them).

The Puritans lived in the 1500's and 1600's. Spurgeon was a couple hundred years later.

He was, of course, heavily immersed in their writings, which is part of the point of my post, which I hope you have read.

David said...

"Spurgeon suffered from bouts of depression. In the reading of many of his sermons and several biographies of his life, I am convinced that the catalyst, if not the cause, of his depression was his immersion in the Puritans." Wow. It has been some time since I looked at this blog, and I am yet again amazed at it's vacuousness RE Spurgeon. What kind of silly psychobabble is THIS? Where is the evidence? This is just speculative - and says NOTHING honest or thoughtful about Spurgeon and EVERYTHING about the presuppositions of the commenter. I am a book dealer, and have read all of the Spurgeon' bio's in print, and some out of print, as well as many sermons from the 63 volume set (Pilgrim Publications) and have seen ZERO evidence of this assertion. You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own set of facts. Christian regards, David L.

Terry Rayburn said...


I'm always fascinated when people drive by and shoot bullets at a post without dealing AT ALL with the points of the post.

Not being infallible, I am WIDE OPEN to interaction with my actual points.

I made 9 points where I believe that common Puritan teaching DIFFERS with the New Covenant teaching of the Bible.

You dealt with NONE of them!

And I theorized that the influence of those bad Puritan teachings likely had an effect on Spurgeon.

Though you lightly throw out the shock term "psychobabble" to discredit my case, my points were totally Bible oriented, with NO psychology at all.

Unfair, David.

But your main overall point was that you, David Leach, book seller extraordinaire, had read EVERYTHING and never before read ANYTHING about my theory...

...and THEREFORE my theory simply MUST be wrong.

Illogical in the extreme.

You may think that my response to your drive-by shooting is too emotional and extreme.

Well, the problem is that the bad influence of legalistic covenant theology of the Puritan variety has tainted not just Spurgeon, but millions of modern day preachers and their unfortunate flocks.

And it's been my observation that the result has been introspective self-centered law-based sin-centered Christians who sadly can't tell the Old Covenant from the New.

And yes, resulting (in my "speculative", humble, but biblically informed "opinion") in a form of "depression" which is spiritually based.

And though I still welcome your interaction with my actual points, your diatribe so far has only reinforced the problem.

David said...

My lengthy last post did not make the cut, apparently, so I wonder if you have moved on to accepting mail from sycophants only. And though it is your way to speak evil of the Puritans, Spurgeon, the Reformers and I suppose all who are not armininian antinomians, I wish you well and urge you to a more Biblical view of soteriology and kindred subjects. Regards.