[**Also, look at Spurgeon’s reflections on church music.]
Charles Spurgeon is one of the most influential Baptist preachers ever and continues to be. He is titled by his admirers as being the “prince of preachers.” The staunch stance that most Baptists make today about baptism is contrasting to the teachings of past Baptists especially that of Spurgeon. Many today are appalled by anyone claiming that baptism is essential yet Spurgeon did. Baptists today have their position on baptism as not being essential to salvation like Charles Stanley and Ray Comfort with Kirk Cameron. On October 13, 1889, Charles Spurgeon said in his lesson “He that Believes and is Baptized shall be Saved” addressing the common discussion about baptism being essential,
“What do you mean by ‘nonessential’? ‘I mean that I can be saved without being baptized.’ Will you dare to say that wicked sentence over again? ‘I mean that I can be saved without being baptized.’ You mean creature! So you will do nothing that Christ commands, if you can be saved without doing it? You are hardly worth saving at all! A man who always wants to be paid for what he does, whose one idea of religion is that he will do what is essential to his own salvation, only cares to save his own skin, and Christ may go where he likes. Clearly, you are no servant of his; you need to be saved from such a disreputable, miserable state of mind; and may the Lord save you! Oftentimes, I do believe that this little matter of believers’ baptism is the test of the sincerity of our profession of love to him” (emp. added).
It is abundantly clear that Spurgeon thought that baptism was essential to salvation and essential to loving Christ. Some may wonder here, “Then, does Charles Spurgeon contradict his lesson on ‘Baptismal Regeneration’ for being a false teaching?” He does not. His lesson on Baptismal Regeneration was dealing with the teachings of the Church of England and no other churches. Spurgeon says clearly in his famous lesson on “Baptismal Regeneration” (June 5, 1864),
“I am not aware that any Protestant Church in England teaches the doctrine of baptismal regeneration except one, and that happens to be the corporation which with none too much humility calls itself the Church of England. This very powerful sect does not teach this doctrine merely through a section of its ministers, who might charitably be considered as evil branches of the vine, but it openly, boldly, and plainly declares this doctrine in her own appointed standard, the Book of Common Prayer, and that in words so express, that while language is the channel of conveying intelligible sense, no process short of violent wresting from their plain meaning can ever make them say anything else” (emp. added).
What was Spurgeon referring to by “Baptismal Regeneration”?! Spurgeon refuted the practice of baptizing unbelievers and specifically the baptizing of infants. In the same lesson, Spurgeon said,
“I find that the great error which we have to contend with throughout England (and it is growing more and more), is one in direct opposition to my text, well known to you as the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. We will confront this dogma with the assertion, that BAPTISM WITHOUT FAITH SAVES NO ONE. The text says, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;’ but whether a man be baptized or no, it asserts that ‘he that believeth not shall be damned:’ so that baptism does not save the unbeliever, nay, it does not in any degree exempt him from the common doom of all the ungodly” (emp. added).
Spurgeon was addressing the teaching and practice of the Church of England to baptize infants, unbelievers. This is why he addressed “baptism without faith” as “baptismal regeneration,” because the Church of England was baptizing unbelievers, who were to be saved without faith and essentially no understanding of the Gospel. Spurgeon was right that baptizing unbelievers is not in the Bible and not taught by Jesus. Baptizing little children contradicts the words of Jesus (Mark 16:16; cf. Matt 19:14). Spurgeon was not addressing those who believed that baptism was the faithful moment of regeneration (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:5; cf. John 3:5).
Now, Spurgeon emphasized faith, and faith being essential to salvation. Many today especially Baptists separate faith from baptism being essential to salvation. Spurgeon did not. Charles Spurgeon showed that that faith and baptism are connected. Referring to Jesus’ words on baptism in Mark 16:16, Spurgeon said in his lesson on “Baptismal Regeneration,”
“THE BAPTISM IN THE TEXT IS ONE EVIDENTLY CONNECTED WITH FAITH. ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ It strikes me, there is no supposition here, that anybody would be baptized who did not believe; or, if there be such a supposition, it is very clearly laid down that his baptism will be of no use to him, for he will be damned, baptized or not, unless he believes. The baptism of the text seems to me—my brethren, if you differ from me I am sorry for it, but I must hold my opinion and out with it—it seems to me that baptism is connected with, nay, directly follows belief. I would not insist too much upon the order of the words, but for other reasons, I think that baptism should follow believing” (emp. added).
Now, some might still want to avoid baptism in Spurgeon’s statement without its context, which Spurgeon stated, “The text says, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;’ but whether a man be baptized or no, it asserts that ‘he that believeth not shall be damned’.” Spurgeon is certainly not contradicting his words here from before about baptism being essential, nor was Jesus for that matter. He is quoting the words of Christ from Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
In response to those who want to leave out baptism from salvation, Spurgeon responds to them clearly in his lesson “He that Believeth and is Baptized Shall be Saved” (October 13, 1889) saying,
“Please observe that I did not make the text. Perhaps, if I had made it, I should have left out that piece about baptism; but I have had no hand in making the Bible, I am obliged to take God’s Word as I find it, and here I read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ ‘Do not dwell on the baptism,’ says one; ‘leave that out.’ That is what you say, my dear Sir; I cannot see your face, but I do not believe that you are my master. My Master is the Lord who taught holy men to write this Book, and I can only go by the Book; the Book has the baptism in it, so I must stick to the truth as it is in the Book: ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’” (emp. added).
Spurgeon’s belief in baptism for salvation cannot be any clearer. Despite the clear teachings of Christ regarding the necessity of the baptism to salvation, some will boldly proclaim that they need not obey baptism to be saved. Some say that all they need is faith. See what Spurgeon said in response to this from his lesson “Baptismal Regeneration.”
“Again, baptism is also Faith’s taking her proper place. It is, or should be one of her first acts of obedience. Reason looks at baptism, and says, ‘Perhaps there is nothing in it; it cannot do me any good.’ ‘True,’ says Faith, ‘and therefore will I observe it. If it did me some good my selfishness would make me do it, but inasmuch as to my sense there is no good in it, since I am bidden by my Lord thus to fulfil all righteousness, it is my first public declaration that a thing which looks to be unreasonable and seems to be unprofitable, being commanded by God, is law, is law to me.”
Why do so many especially Baptists today cast aside baptism in Jesus’ name as not being necessary and even unnecessary and unreasonable? It is clear that it is the end result of accepting faith alone, which is to assume that baptism is a work of law and boasting rather than a work of faith and being the exact moment of acting faith when Jesus saves. To see Spurgeon’s confusion in dealing with the Baptismal Regeneration and combating the flawed teachings of the Church of England, Spurgeon puts salvation before being buried and raised with Christ as seen in reading his other words from his lesson on “Baptismal Regeneration,”
“At any rate it effectually avoids the error we have been combating. A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved. He bears a testimony against baptismal regeneration in his being baptized as professedly an already regenerate person. Brethren, the baptism here meant is a baptism connected with faith, and to this baptism I will admit there is very much ascribed in Scripture. Into that question I am not going; but I do find some very remarkable passages in which baptism is spoken of very strongly. I find this—‘Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ I find as much as this elsewhere; I know that believer’s baptism itself does not wash away sin, yet it is so the outward sign and emblem of it to the believer, that the thing visible may be described as the thing signified. Just as our Saviour said—‘This is my body,’ when it was not his body, but bread; yet, inasmuch as it represented his body, it was fair and right according to the usage of language to say, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’ And so, inasmuch as baptism to the believer representeth the washing of sin—it may be called the washing of sin—not that it is so, but that it is to saved souls the outward symbol and representation of what is done by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the man who believes in Christ.”
Here we see the common Baptist belief that survives to this day that the Holy Spirit changes the unbelieving man’s heart to believe. Where is this belief in the Scriptures? Ir cannot be found. Also, for Baptists and even Spurgeon, one’s initial belief is the time of one’s regeneration, or in other words, the exact moment of salvation. See, Spurgeon was right that someone cannot be saved at baptism being a unbeliever because it is not possible to be saved without faith; and on the other hand, Spurgeon is wrong to believe that believers are not saved when rising with Christ from baptism because he believed that they were already saved in believing and had received the Holy Spirit. This is why Spurgeon rejects baptism and why Baptists are generally confused about Jesus’s words in Mark 16:16, because they have already decided that salvation is when one first believes rather than when faith comes to conformation of the Gospel. Though grace is a free gift, we must still faithfully be buried with Christ through baptism. For which, we do not baptize ourselves but someone else immerses us.
How again does Spurgeon differ in belief from Baptists today? Spurgeon believes that baptism is essential to salvation, which is different. Yet, Spurgeon is in agreement with today’s Baptists that baptism is not the moment of regeneration and salvation. There are a few professing to be Christian including Baptists who also believe like Spurgeon today, but these are certainly few. To consider for yourself, whether one is saved at belief or at the faithful act of baptism, read some Scriptures on baptism like Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3–7; 1 Cor 6:11; Gal 3:26–27; Col 2:12–13; and 1 Pet 3:21. Remember that John’s baptism is different from the baptism that Jesus commanded (Acts 19:1–7).
Are we saved by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Yes (1 Cor 15:1–4). Are we saved when we are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Yes (1 Pet 1:3). Are we saved when we baptized through the resurrection? Yes (1 Pet 3:21). See, God raising a believer with Christ from the burial of baptism is not out of our own works (Eph 2:4–9).
The top of our understanding of the being raised with Christ from being buried with Him in baptism. Spurgeon has very clear and truthful statements regarding the obedience to the Gospel by baptism in Romans 6:3–7. In Spurgeon’s lesson, “Baptism – A Burial” (October 30, 1881), he had these things to say to show how baptism is essential to salvation,
“Baptism sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our participation therein. Its teaching is twofold. First, think of our representative union with Christ, so that when he died and was buried it was on our behalf, and we were thus buried with him. This will give you the teaching of baptism so far as it sets forth a creed. We declare in baptism that we believe in the death of Jesus, and desire to partake in all the merit of it. But there is a second equally important matter and that is our realized union with Christ which is set forth in baptism, not so much as a doctrine of our creed as a matter of our experience. There is a manner of dying, of being buried, of rising, and of living in Christ which must be displayed in each one of us if we are indeed members of the body of Christ.”
“First, then, I want you to think of OUR REPRESENTATIVE UNION WITH CHRIST as it is set forth in baptism as a truth to be believed. Our Lord Jesus is the substitute for his people, and when he died it was on their behalf and in their stead. The great doctrine of our justification lies in this, that Christ took our sins, stood in our place, and as our surety suffered, and bled, and died, thus presenting on our behalf a sacrifice for sin. We are to regard him, not as a private person, but as our representative. We are buried with him in baptism unto death to show that we accept him as being for us dead and buried.”
“His death is the hinge of our confidence: we are not baptized into his example, or his life, but into his death. We hereby confess that all our salvation lies in the death of Jesus, which death we accept as having been incurred on our account.”