Friday, August 12, 2011

1 Corinthians 14.24-25 and Charles Spurgeon

In a recent sermon I looked at 1 Corinthians 14.24-25 for some basic principles for the worship service.  I didn't deal in detail with tongues or prophecy specifically but rather with principles of application for our worship service.  Added to this there is an on-going dialogue over at  Parchment and Pen entitled "Why I Am/Not A Charismatic."  Amid the comments there was some discussion of Mark Driscoll's remarks that he has, at times, been granted knowledge of someone's past in order to minister to them.  This seemed to be in accord with 1 Corinthians 14.24-25. There was some concern that this smacked of "mysticism"--a negatively loaded word by those using it!  I brought up the example of Charles Spurgeon as another example of a minister receiving direct, non-discursive knowledge about the details of someone's life for the sake of ministry.  The following excerpt is from Charles Spurgeon's autobiography.
There were many instances of remarkable conversions at the Music Hall; one especially was so singular that I have often related it as a proof that God sometimes guides His servants to say what they would themselves never have thought of uttering, in order that He may bless the hearer for whom the message is personally intended.  While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, "There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!"  A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, "Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?" "Yes," replied the man, "I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and under his preaching, by God's grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus.  Shall I tell you how it happened?  I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir.  I should not have minded that, but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it.  I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit, but how he should know that, I could not tell.  Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday.  At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me, but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul."
Then Spurgeon adds this comment immediately following the above:
I could tell as many as a dozen similiar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, "Come, see a man that told all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly."  C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography (Volume 1: The Early Years), Banner of Truth, 1962, pp. 531-532.
The parallels to what is described in 1 Corinthians 14.24-25 are amazing.   Without any claim to perfection, Spurgeon is recognized as a powerful Calvinistic preacher of God's word and a reliable source that is not prone to exaggeration.  It is difficult, for me at least, to refrain from seeing a prophetic manifestation in the incidents described by Spurgeon above.