The Theological Controversy That May Have Cost Charles Spurgeon’s Life

Charles Spurgeon


Conviction—it’s a word that most associate with Charles Spurgeon. The “Prince of Preachers” wasn’t known for backing down from necessary controversy. Between pamphlet writing, lectures, and preaching, Spurgeon clearly and passionately argued for the truth of Christianity against ministers who were backing away from orthodoxy.

Near the end of his life, Spurgeon became entangled in a controversy that became so heated, it may have contributed to his death at the age of 57.

In what would be called the Downgrade Controversy, the Baptist Union of Great Britain began sliding into doctrinal heterodoxy near the end of the 19th century, capitulating to critical interpretations of the Bible and the denial of key doctrines of Christian belief. Stunned at this development, Spurgeon began his crusade.

Fighting the fight of faith

In the months and years that followed, Spurgeon produced many works seeking to persuade others of the “downgrade” in theology amongst Baptists. He sounded the alarm in his magazine The Sword and the Trowel:

Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaptation for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart.

Spurgeon held that since this theology preached by certain ministers in the Baptist Union was lifeless, parishioners were not being fed the life-giving nourishment that true doctrine provides.

The reaction against Spurgeon from the opposing side was merciless. At the annual Baptist Union meeting in 1888, representatives from the churches of the Union voted 2,000 to 7 to modify the organization’s statement of faith to reflect a moderate theological position between those on the evangelical side and those on the liberal side.

James Spurgeon, Charles’ brother, was responsible for helping to keep the Union together at the expense of its doctrinal fidelity. Charles was crushed by both his brother’s actions and the decision of the assembly. After his death, Charles’ wife said “his fight for the faith . . . cost him his life.”

Get the best value on Spurgeon’s works

Charles Spurgeon has influenced countless Christians to stand for the central truths of the gospel. In honor of this spiritual giant’s birthday, we’ve placed his works on sale at a tiered discount. Whether it’s just his sermons or our largest collection of Spurgeon’s works, there’s been no better time to learn from one of Christianity’s most popular pastors.

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    Get the best deal on our largest collection of works by Spurgeon. An invaluable tool for sermon preparation or everyday Bible study, the Charles Spurgeon Collection (149 vols.) combines everything in the Complete Spurgeon Sermon Collection (63 vols.) and the Charles Spurgeon Collection (86 vols.). Enjoy the writings and wisdom of the English preacher who probably influenced more Christians on both sides of the Atlantic than any single person of our era.

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Get to know the Prince of Preachers—purchase the works of Charles Spurgeon today!
 

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Written by
Daniel Motley

Daniel Motley works as the Team Lead of Live Products at Faithlife. He helps promote resources in the Logos Bible Software platform while overseeing a group of product managers. In his spare time he likes to write and has contributed to The Gospel Coalition and the Art of Manliness.

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Written by Daniel Motley