07 November 2005

Spurgeon on private prophecies and new revelation

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon was a cessationist. He regarded the charismata as apostolic signs—unique gifts for a unique era. He taught (as did virtually every evangelical preacher of his era) that the miraculous gifts described in Acts and 1 Corinthians (including the ability to command physical healing or speak in tongues) ceased before the end of the apostolic era.

Nonetheless, Spurgeon is sometimes cited by contemporary charismatics as someone who would be sympathetic with the idea of modern supernatural prophetic utterances, because he himself occasionally acted upon strong subjective impressions as if they were special revelatory messages from the Holy Spirit. Here are a couple of examples from his sermons:

"Looking for One Thing and Finding Another" (sermon 3075):

Many old stories are current which we do not doubt are true. There is one of a man who never would attend a place of worship until he was induced to go to hear the singing. He would listen to the tunes, he said, but he would have "none of your canting preaching," he would put his fingers in his ears. He takes that wicked precaution, and effectually blocks up Ear-gate for a while, but the gate is stormed by a little adversary, for a fly settles on his nose; he must brush it off, and, as he takes out his finger to do so, the preacher says, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." The man listens, the Word pierces his soul, and he is converted.
     I remember quite well, and the subject of the story is most probably present in this congregation, that a very singular conversion was wrought at New Park Street Chapel. A man, who had been accustomed to go to a gin-palace to fetch in gin for his Sunday evening's drinking, saw a crowd round the door of the chapel, he looked in, and forced his way to the top of the gallery stairs. Just then, I looked in the direction in which he stood,—I do not know why I did so, but I remarked that there might be a man in the gallery who had come in there with no very good motive, for even then he had a gin-bottle in his pocket. The singularity of the expression struck the man, and being startled because the preacher so exactly described him, he listened attentively to the warnings which followed; the Word reached his heart, the grace of God met with him, he became converted, and he is walking humbly in the fear of God.

"The Call of 'To-Day'" (sermon 3160):

An incident occurred this afternoon. An aged minister, an excellent man, came into my vestry, and shook my hand and said, "I have got this letter which I should like you to see."
     Well, I had many things to attend to, but he was so anxious and said, "I know you will like to hear it," that I took the letter.
     Before I read it he explained to me that he had a son who had made a profession of religion, but had gone aside from it, and it had pretty well broken his heart. At last, he was to go to America, and the father sent him away with a very heavy heart. The old man took off his spectacles.
     The letter was from his son and it said, "I went to hear Mr. Spurgeon, and I have not the slightest doubt that it has had an influence on my whole life. The text was, 'He is as a root out of a dry ground.' The sermon was divided into four parts."
     I can recollect the sermon well enough. I was suffering from great pain at the time.
     "The point which lasted longest was that in which he said that God had made Christ to grow up like a root, like a root out of a dry ground. He went on for twenty-five minutes,"—[then he gave an opinion of my style which I won't read to you]—"but what surprised me most was that out of five or six thousand, he fastened his eyes or me though I was in the farthest gallery"—[the young man's name was Thomas So-and-so—the son of the Baptist minister]—"and suddenly he shouted out these words, 'There's that wild, dare-devil Tom. God means to save him: and he will be a comfort to his father in his old age.'"
     The old gentleman took off his spectacles again when he got to that and said, "And so he is."
     It went on, "I thought he was going to say my name." He trembled lest the people should think his name was Tom.
     Well, that cheered my heart to think of that young fellow, and I thought I would have a shot at some of you to-night, and I pray that it may go right straight through your hearts.

On the other hand, whenever Spurgeon discussed such things, he nearly always warned of the dangers of such mysticism. Here are a few of his famous comments on the subject:

"Our Manifesto" (sermon 2185):
I hope that none of us will ever fall into the snare of following the guidance of impressions made upon us by texts which happen to come prominently before our minds. You have judgements, and you must not lay them aside to be guided by accidental impressions.

"A Well-Ordered Life" (sermon #878):

Some, I know, fall into a very vicious habit, which habit they excuse themselves—namely, that of ordering their footsteps according to impressions.
     Every now and then I meet with people whom I think to be rather weak in the head, who will journey from place to place and will perform follies by the gross under the belief that they are doing the will of God because some silly whim of their diseased brains is imagined to be an inspiration from above. There are occasionally impressions of the Holy Spirit which guide men where no other guidance could have answered the end. I do not doubt the old story of the Quaker who was disturbed at night and could not sleep and was led to go to a person's house miles away and knock at the door just at the time when the inhabitant was about to commit suicide—just in time to prevent the act.
     I have been the subject of such impressions, myself, and have seen very singular results. But to live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you. "To the Law and to the Testimony." If it is not according to this Word, the impression comes not from God—it may proceed from Satan, or from your own distempered brain! Our prayer must be, "Order my steps in Your Word.
     Now, that rule of life, the written Word of God, we ought to study and obey. The text proves that the Psalmist desired to know what was in God's Word—he would be a reader and a searcher. O Christian, how can you know what God would have you to do if your Bible is unthumbed and covered over with dust? The prayer implies, too, that when David once knew God's Word, he wished to fulfill it all. Some are pickers and choosers. One of God's commands they will obey—another they are conveniently blind to—even directly disobedient to it. O that it were not so with God's people, that they had a balanced mind in their obedience and would take God's Word without making exceptions, following the Lamb where ever He goes!
     "Order my steps," Lord, not in a part of Your Word, but in all of it. Let me not omit any known duty, nor plunge into any known sin. There was, in David's mind, according to this prayer, a real love for holiness. He was not holy because he felt he ought to be and yet would gladly be otherwise. If there were anything good and lovely, he desired to have it. If there were anywhere in God's garden—a rare fruit or flower of purity and excellence—he longed to have it transplanted into his soul, that in all things his life might be the perfect transcript of the Word of God. Stick, then, to God's Word. There is a perfect rule in the Divine statutes. May the Holy Spirit cast us in the mold of His Word.

"Two Episodes in My Life," from "The Sword and the Trowel," October 1865:
SUPERSTITION is to religion what fiction is to history. Not content with the marvels of providence and grace which truly exist around us, fanaticism invents wonders and constructs for itself prodigies. Besides being wickedly mischievous, this fabrication is altogether unnecessary and superfluous, for as veritable history is often more romantic than romance, so certified divine interpositions are frequently far more extraordinary than those extravaganzas which claim fancy and frenzy as their parents. Every believing man into whose inner life we have been permitted to gaze without reserve, has made a revelation to us more or less partaking of the marvelous, but has generally done so under protest, as though we were to hold it for ever under the seal of secrecy. Had we not very distinctly been assured of their trustworthiness, we should have been visited with incredulity, or have suspected the sanity of our informants, and such unbelief would by no means have irritated them, for they themselves expected no one to believe in their remarkable experiences, and would not have unveiled their secret to us if they had not hoped against hope that our eye would view it from a sympathizing point of view. Our personal pathway has been so frequently directed contrary to our own design and beyond our own conception by singularly powerful impulses, and irresistibly suggestive providences, that it were wanton wickedness for us to deride the doctrine that God occasionally grants to his servants a special and perceptible manifestation of his will for their guidance, over and above the strengthening energies of the Holy Spirit, and the sacred teaching of the inspired Word. We are not likely to adopt the peculiarities of the Quakers, but in this respect we are heartily agreed with them.
     It needs a deliberate and judicious reflection to distinguish between the actual and apparent in professedly preternatural intimations, and if opposed to Scripture and common sense, we must neither believe in them nor obey them. The precious gift of reason is not to be ignored; we are not to be drifted hither and thither by every wayward impulse of a fickle mind, nor are we to be led into evil by suppositious impressions; these are misuses of a great truth, a murderous use of most useful edged tools. But notwithstanding all the folly of hair-brained rant, we believe that the unseen hand may be at times assuredly felt by gracious souls, and the mysterious power which guided the minds of the seers of old may, even to this day, sensibly overshadow reverent spirits. We would speak discreetly, but we dare say no less.

"The Holy Spirit in Connection with Our Ministry" from Lectures to My Students, Vol. 3:
I need scarcely warn any brother here against falling into the delusion that we may have the Spirit so as to become inspired. Yet the members of a certain litigious modern sect need to be warned against this folly. They hold that their meetings are under "the presidency of the Holy Spirit:" concerning which notion I can only say that I have been unable to discover in holy Scripture either the term or the idea. I do find in the New Testament a body of Corinthians eminently gifted, fond of speaking:, and given to party strifes—true representatives of those to whom I allude, but as Paul said of them, "I thank God I baptized none of you," so also do I thank the Lord that few of that school have ever been found in our midst.
     It would seem that their assemblies possess a peculiar gift of inspiration, not quite perhaps amounting to infallibility, but nearly approximating thereto. If you have mingled in their gatherings, I greatly question whether you have been more edified by the prelections produced under celestial presidency, than you have been by those of ordinary preachers of the Word, who only consider themselves to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as one spirit is under the influence of another spirit, or one mind under the influence of another mind.. We are not the passive communicators of infallibility, but the honest teachers of such things as we have learned, so far as we have been able to grasp them. As our minds are active, and have a personal existence while the mind of the Spirit is acting upon them, our infirmities are apparent as well as his wisdom; and while we reveal what he has made us to know, we are greatly abased by the fear that our own ignorance and error are in a measure manifested at the same time, because we have not been more perfectly subject to the divine power.
     I do not suspect that you will go astray in the direction I have hinted at: certainly the results of previous experiments are not likely to tempt; wise men to that folly.

"Enquiring of God" (sermon 2996)
Sometime, too, but rarely, God guides us by very vivid impressions. I have seen so much of people who have been impressed this way, and that way, and the other way, that I do not believe in impressions except in certain cases. I was once in conversation with two friends, one of whom was guided by his judgment, while the other was swayed by impressions, and I could not help noting that the man who was guided by impressions was, as such people always will be, "unstable as water." If I am impressed in one way one day, I may be impressed in another way the next day, so impressions are unreliable guides. There was a young man, who was impressed with the idea that he ought to preach for me one Lord's day; but as I was not impressed to let him do so, it stood over, and probably will continue to stand over for some little time. He had no gifts of speech, but he thought his impression was quite sufficient. When I receive a similar impression, the revelation will be a proper one, and you will have the pleasure of listening to his voice, but certainly not before that.
     Occasionally, impressions do guide a man right. A Quaker, one night, could not sleep; and he had a very strong impression that he must get up and saddle and mount his horse. He did so, and rode along the streets, his horse's hoofs noisily clattering in the silence of the night. He did not know where he was to go, but there was a light in one house, and something seemed to say to him, "This is the house to which you are to go." He dismounted, and knocked at the door, and a man came down, and asked why he was there at that time of night. "Perhaps, friend," answered the Quaker, "thou canst tell me, for I do not know, but I have been moved to come here." "I can tell you indeed," said the man, with much emotion; and he took him upstairs, and showed him a short halter with which he was about to hang himself when the Quaker came to his door. Such strong impressions are not to be despised, and I have no doubt that highly spiritual minds do become like the photographer's sensitive plate, and do receive impressions. What another man may be a fool for talking of, such men may truly speak of, for God does sometimes reveal his will in that way.

Intelligent Obedience (sermon 3263)
Others, too, judge of their duty by impressions. "If I feel it impressed upon my mind," says one, "I shall do, it." Does God command you to do it? This is the proper question. If he does, you should make haste, whether it is impressed upon your mind or not; but if there be no command to that effect, or rather, if it diverges from the line of God's statutes, and needs apology or explanation, hold your hand, for though you have ten thousand impressions, yet must you never dare to go by them. It is a dangerous thing for us to make the whims of our brain instead of the clear precepts of God, the guide of our moral actions. " To the law and to the testimony,"—this is the lamp that shows the Christian true light; be this your chart, be this your compass; but as to impressions, and whims, and fancies, and I know not what beside which some have taken,—these are more wreckers lights that will entice you on the rocks. Hold fast to the Word of God, and nothing else; whoever he shall be that shall guide you otherwise, close your ears to him. If at any time, through infirmity or weakness, I should teach you anything which is contrary to this Book, cast it from you, hurl it away as chaff is driven from the wheat; if it be mine and not my Master's, cast it away. Though you love me, though I may have been the means of your conversion to God, think no more of what I say than of the very strangers in the street, if it be not consistent with the teachings of the Most High. Our guide is his written Word, let us keep to this.

Phil's signature

22 comments:

Ransom said...

Spurgeon:

Every now and then I meet with people whom I think to be rather weak in the head, who will journey from place to place and will perform follies by the gross under the belief that they are doing the will of God because some silly whim of their diseased brains is imagined to be an inspiration from above.

I'm reminded of some of the anecdotes that the Quaker-turned-"Higher Life" teacher Hannah Whitall Smith writes about in her Religious Fanaticism: the woman who would not get out of bed or put on her clothes without God's guidance, or the woman who was "led" to steal money from her landlord to teach an object lesson about worldly possessions, to name two. She came to the conclusion that impressions weren't something to be trusted, and the best guidance came from Providence - encountering some circumstance and doing whatever the right thing was.

Sounds like Smith and Spurgeon might have known some of the same people.

Steve said...

Spurgeon said: "I have been the subject of such impressions, myself, and have seen very singular results. But to live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you."

That sums up Spurgeon's perspective real nicely. He acknowledges having experienced impressions, yet affirms we should never consider them to be setting for us any kind of foundation, precedent, principle, or pattern upon which to build. That role belongs to the Word alone.

ScottyB said...

It occurs to me that the temperance in these quotes is typical of Spurgeon(i think of the way he deals with DL Moody or the Wesley Brothers and some romanists).

Spurgeon had a high view of scripture and a great dependance upon the Holy Spirit for the Preaching UP of Christ. This is what we in Sovereign Grace Ministries strive for just as you all in FIRE or the IFCA,PCA,OPC etc.


The way we view prophecy for all intensive purposes is the way you all view preaching--we just call it something different.

It is still forthtelling and it comes from the fire that Scripture puts in our bones. (I think of Tony Sargent's book The Sacred Annointing on the ministry of DMLJ as an example of what I'm trying to describe)

As one who went to Master's and spent alot of time at Grace I have not observed much difference between good preaching in both cessation and non-cessaionist "mildy-charismatic" camps.

Wouldn't we say that John's power in the pulpit comes from the Holy Spirit? That some of the connections that are made by him while he's on the fly are the Spirit working throught his 40 hours of preparation?

All these spiriual things are means of grace from the Spirit for the edification of the Saints for the Magnification of Christ for the Glory of GOD .

We desire to depend as much as possible on the Spirit to magnify the Gospel in our churches so we make that ministry time a greater component of our model. Spurgeon said he had power in the pulpit because his peoaple prayed for him. Waiting on the Lord brings blessing. We try to wait on the Lord to depend on the Spirit and we receive conviction that the Lord would have us to share a specific verse for the edification of the body in our meetings. So far I have not seen anything done indecently or disorderly in our meetings in SGM.

I think of stories I hear from a man in Indian who is affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries-Does Yesu Padam (http://lovencare.ca/newsletter/newsletter.html)in India experience some things that we don't in the US?

Is experiencing things like casting out demons (I remember a story I read in How To Meet The Enemy)or praying for people to be healed and they get healed a bad thing as long as it's subject to scripture?

As for subjective impressions:

Hbr 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.



more to come...

Jeremy Weaver said...

As a non-cessationist, I don't see anyhting really that I disagree with in those quotes.
In fact, they seem to support my view of prophecy.

Rob Wilkerson said...

ScottyB....Another TMS Alumni gone Sovereign Grace? Shoot me an email sometime so we can compare notes!

Thanks Phil for this monthly dose of Spurgeon in one post! I continue to be amazed by your librarian's grasp of Spurgeon and how accutely you apply it!

Brad Meyer said...

Phil:
I'm not seeking (and would in fact be predisposed to reject) any "revelation" purporting to give me some truth I need for spiritual life and/or godliness that's extraneous to [beyond] what is already set forth in Scripture.

Jhn 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

Jhn 16:13 ...when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: ...and he will shew you things to come.

Phil, I know Spurgeon is of course the authority, but funny how Christ mistakenly did not say "scripture" would guide you into all truth- but the "Spirit". Christ could have done us all some good by choosing His words more carefully- how unnecessarily misleading- He must have just spoken unclearly! Maybe if you weren't predisposed to reject,...
Phil, you're blind leading others into religion with Spurgeon's lamp. Scripture never mentions your love for your children, wife, blogging, Spurgeon- how can these things be true?

Mike Garner said...

I think basically everyone is on the same page here, especially on the non-cessationist side. I can hardly say that I disagree with anything that was posted. Not one of us should ever let any impressions supercede the clear teaching of scripture. To let such impressions run your life is entirely to miss the importance and sufficiency of Scripture. Having said that, Spurgeon clearly does not rule out that such impressions are from God and that God uses them for the conversion of others.
Furthermore, I think most of us would with Spurgeon maintain the difference between the Apostolic gifts and the gifts that others have. Clearly scripture gives higher importance and certainly authority to the work of the Apostles.
This is best brought out by the concept of Doctrine. If anyone suggested to me that the Lord brought them a word that created some doctrine, then I would rule it out. This would certainly be branching into apostolic roles. However, I have not one problem doubting that God could impress upon a preacher than a member in his congregation had a bottle of gin with him.
John MacArthur and all other Cessationist pastors have all probably used illustrations or said poingnant truths that ended up speaking directly into an individual's situation. This is the providential work of the Holy Spirit through a given agent. This would simply be what most of us would call "prophecy".

Adrian said...

Wow Phil, I admire your honesty in giving us greater insight into the moderate charistmatic Spurgeon surely was, for if a cessationist can say words like this then I would be happy to call myself one! Not for me the excesses of some, by God's grace. As usual CHS says it all and says it well. It looks like the argument is finished before it started......

Mike Garner said...

You have to love Adrian :)

John Schroeder said...

Well, this is not going to make Adrian happy. Blogotional continues the discussion here.

theinscrutableone said...

OK, now that the non-cessationists have had their say (and how!), here's a comment from a lonely yet stalwart cessationist. :-)

Up front, I'll admit that Spurgeon did believe that God did sometimes give "impressions." Moreover, I'll admit that He still gives them to us today. However, impressions are not the same thing as prophecy. Unlike prophecy, impressions don't carry along with them the stamp of divine authority: the "Thus says the Lord." In Spurgeon's testimonies, the origin of his God-granted impressions became clear only after its fruit became apparent. I do not see him claiming divine inspiration at the time of the impression; instead, he only recognized the hand of God in the impression after it occurred. I believe that Spurgeon demonstrated wisdom in this regard, because one ought not claim that "God told me", lest one risk taking the Lord's name in vain (the same sin that is committed, incidentally, when a false/presumptous prophecy is made).

The fact remains: God's primary way of leading His people has been by the Spirit speaking through the Scriptures. Although He sometimes puts impressions in our minds that afterwards turn out to have been a gracious gift from His hand, this is not to be confused with the Biblical gift of prophecy, which carries with it divine authority ("Thus says the Lord") and is intended to edify the church rather than guide a single individual. Just as we ought to be careful not to confuse (as some do) prophecy with preaching, we also ought to take care lest we confuse impressions with prophecy.

I think we may do better if we classify impressions such as those described by Spurgeon as one of the many means God works out His preordained plan through Providence. In fact, I would argue that impressions happen more often than we may realize. Perhaps I'm heading home from work and suddenly realize that I need to swing by a store for milk. Unbeknownst to me, a serious accident took place on my usual route at the time I usually would have been traveling that way. In such a scenario, it could well be that God graciously gave me an impression to go for milk in order to spare me from serious harm. I'm sure that this type of thing happens quite often, but let us make no mistake: there's a world of difference between such a gracious leading of the Spirit and what the Bible plainly reveals to be the prophetic gift. One need not grant the perpetuity of the charismatic gifts to grant that God still gives gracious impressions to His people. The Bible nowhere lumps impressions together with prophecy: neither did Spurgeon, and neither should we.

Let us do Spurgeon the honor of interpreting his teaching in the plain sense: he was indeed a cessationist, and is innocent of all charges of being a moderate charismatic. Court adjourned. :-)

Dave

GospelDrivenLife said...

As a pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries I read this BLOG with some interest, Today I have a number of thoughts:
1. I became a non-cessationist through 20 years of exegetical preaching though every apostolic letter. I am well versed in original languages as well. I simply concluded that the work and manifestation of the Spirit was unchanged since apostolic times.

2. I became a non-cessationist through readung church history, especially Edwards on revival.

3. I would agree with the observations I have seen here -- that discernment must be exercised in the practice of the gifts. That is why we function as we do in our churches. It is why the Word of God rules as well. There are no new words to be added to Scripture.

4. But I am also sure that every work of God is tainted by the flesh -- having pastored in Baptist, Presbyterian, and independent churches. So, I am unsure of the value of finding faults all around. A wise man used to say it was easy to spend so much time chasing crows that we never planted the corn. Critiquing extremes proves very little.

LeeC said...

But I would agree with Phil here Gospeldrivelife on point #4.

He is not citing extremes, Sovereign Grace is much more the exception than the rule in the field of charismatic proponants.

Also the "Rubber Prophets" are much more visible to the unbelieving world and often are one of two main impressions people have about Christianity, the other being Roman Catholic. And hace should be addressed and vocally so by both sides of the cesationist argument to clear the name of Christ that they sully.

There is nothing wrong with realizing that Beny Hinn is a much more recognized name than Josh McDowell. Wel, I mean it's wrong that that is the case, but it is not wrong to recognize it with the intent to refute Hinn and his ilk.

candyinsierras said...

Since the discussion is essentially about revelations, including experiences in the faith, let me offer the following words.

The Lord Jesus Christ gives special revelations of Himself to His people. Even if scripture didn't declare this, there are many of the children of God who could testify the truth of it from their own experience. They have had manifestations of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a peculiar manner, such as no mere reading or hearing could afford. In the biographies of eminent saints you will find many instances recorded in which Jesus has been pleased, in a very special manner, to speak to their souls and to unfold the wonders of His person; yes, their souls have been steeped in such happiness that they thought they were in heaven, whereas they weren't there, though well nigh on its threshold-for when Jesus manifests Himself to His people, it is heaven on earth; it is paradise in embryo; it is bliss begun. Special manifestations of Christ exercise a holy influence on the believer's heart. One effect will be humility. If a man says. "I have had such-and-such spiritual communications, I am a great man, "he has never had any communion with Jesus at all;for "The Lord...looks upon the lowly, but the proud He knows from afar." He does not need to come near them to know them, and will never give them any visits of love. Another effect will be happiness; for in God's presence there are pleasures forevermore. Holiness will be sure to follow. A person who has no holiness has never had this manifestation. Some people profess a great deal; but we must not believe them unless we see that their deeds answer to what they say. "Do not be deceived:God cannot be mocked." He will not give His favors to the wicked: for while He will not cast away a perfect person, neither will He respect an evil doer. Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus -humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to you, Christian!

If I was to say that these words were written by a prominent charismatic leader, people might nod their heads sagely and think, "see, they are all about extrabiblical revelations and experiences." Interestingly enough, these words were written by Charles Spurgeon.

Mike Garner said...

Yep,
My thoughts are that this must be the "minor" disagreement that Phil has with Spurgeon (1 of 4 if I remember correctly). Spurgeon, while believing that the gifts (and especially the authority) of the Apostles had ceased, certainly believed in private revelation to a given individual for the purpose of edifying the church. This, interestingly enough, fits perfectly with the biblical understanding of Prophecy that we see in 1Corinthians.

In Christ alone,
mike

Rob Wilkerson said...

Echoing Mike and responding to the Inscrutable One, I'd have to disagree with the latter on his point that impressions are not to be associated with NT prophecy. His comment portrays what I believe to be a mistaken association of OT prophecy with NT prophecy, something already commented upon in an earlier post/comment, if I recall correctly.

There is no "thus sayeth the Lord" preceding any prophecy in the NT, nor is it associated with NT prophets. The offices were completely different, serving completely different purposes, in completely different dispensations (if I can use that word without getting pummelled too badly!). I want to put myself in a learning position, which means I'd like to learn from someone else what they view as the inseparable connection between the two, though, to my knowledge, there is no explicit text making such a connection.

As most 'mild' charismatics would understand it, any communication from God, be it by impression or dream or vision or whatever, is an act of the prophetic.

Part of the rub seems to lie in two faultlines. First, there is such an ardent desire, as I perceive it, to protect the authority of Scripture that cessationism doesn't quite know what to do with prophecy. Cessationists, as I once was, are so fearful of any threat presented to the authority, primacy, or sufficiency of Scripture, that what they perceive to be a threat is treated as one even though it is not one. And that leads to the second faultline.

A misunderstanding of the way mild Charismatics see the activity and role of NT prophecy is at the heart of much of the debate. Some cessationists say it is the same as preaching. Some of these same persons will then say out of the other side of the mouth that prophecy is not in existence today. Which is it? Again, it became clear to me personally that my fear was almost completely driving my cessationism, actually drowning out the voice of good exegesis and hermeneutics and theology. This isn't an attack on my cessationists friends....rather, it's just a plea to remember, "It's just me!" and bury the fear for a while so we can talk. Are you afraid of becoming a charismatic? Hey, it's not so bad once you get used to it!

If the voice of the milder charismatics, such as the ones I serve with in Sovereign Grace, can be overheard above the tooty-fruity ones (which Phil is primarily focusing upon), everyone will hear a much more reasoned and biblically thought out understanding of prophecy, one that would include a category we call impressions. I've said to cessationists before that the inherent fear produced by a cock-eyed view of prophecy must be laid aside at least long enough to see what's really being said. No Sovereign Grace brand of charismatic, for example, is going to be disagree about the authority and primacy of Scripture. In my opinion, that's where we need to focus, rather than on the extreme examples that just continue to stir the two parties up against each other's doctrine.

Most, if not all, of the impressions, dreams, visions, and 'words' I've received from the Spirit since giving way to continuationism have been powerful, biblical, practical, and applicable to the body of Christ (talk to Chris Pixley at Pix from the Pulpit to get his comments on the activity of the Spirit toward the corporate body of Christ as opposed to the individualism so readily apparent in charismania today). I stand (or rather prostrate myself) sometimes amazed that God would choose to speak this way, and more than that, that He would choose to use someone so screwed up like me. This charismatic 'stuff' is strange, but it's real and it's incredibly powerful. Let's keep the discussion rolling on!

centuri0n said...

Brad Meyer said:
I'm not seeking (and would in fact be predisposed to reject) any "revelation" purporting to give me some truth I need for spiritual life and/or godliness that's extraneous to [beyond] what is already set forth in Scripture.

cent responds:
That's fine. I wonder -- how does this statement fit with what you say immediately after you cite some Scripture here?

Brad said:
I know Spurgeon is of course the authority, but funny how Christ mistakenly did not say "scripture" would guide you into all truth- but the "Spirit". Christ could have done us all some good by choosing His words more carefully- how unnecessarily misleading- He must have just spoken unclearly! Maybe if you weren't predisposed to reject,...

I think it is interesting when arguments for a theological posotion start with the claim that the other side would have benefitted from Christ speaking "more clearly". Obviously, this is intended to be sarcasm -- but what it betrays is a lack of meaningful interaction with what are actually scriptural arguments from the other side.

It's like hammering on 1Tim 4:10 to say that Calvinism is false -- when the person reading 1Tim 4:10 to prove an Arminian (or worse) view doesn't actually understand 1Tim 4:10 or the context from which it flows. Let's say, for example, that Jn 16:13 does say that the Holy Spirit will guide "you" into "all truth". Well, who is "you"? Is it "all believers"? Or is it the Apostles and disciples who will, ultimately, write the NT? How would we know -- do we require the Spirit to know, or can we find out by reading the text?

Importantly, the cessationist position doesn't actually deny that the Holy Spirit does enlighten us directly -- through regeneration, and ultimately even through sanctification. What it denies is that somehow these things take place apart from God's Word, apart from the charism present in Scripture. And in that, the objection that Jn 16:13 is a proof-text against cessationist theology (because cessationists are wishfyul thinkers about what Christ could have said) doesn't address what cessationists are actually advocating.

Brad said:
Phil, you're blind leading others into religion with Spurgeon's lamp. Scripture never mentions your love for your children, wife, blogging, Spurgeon- how can these things be true?

The Bible never actually mentions you personally, Brad. Does that mean you are not saved? Of course not -- but the Bible does actually emntion that Christian husbands will love their wives and their children (do you need these verses, or would you agree they are there?), that godly elders will be right-handlers of the Word and would exhort goodness but decry falsehood, and that we should honor and listen to those who are teachers and preachers of the word (of which, I hope you would agree, Spurgeon is undoubtedly one). So in those truths, we can take comfort in our blogging, our children, our spouse, our Spurgeon.

You are welcome, at that point, to make a case for "our apostolic gifts". I would be excited to see it.

centuri0n said...

Mike said:
| Furthermore, I think most of us would with Spurgeon
| maintain the difference between the Apostolic gifts
| and the gifts that others have. Clearly scripture gives
| higher importance and certainly authority to the work
| of the Apostles.

If that is all that is at stake in the cessationist/charismatic disagreement, then there is no reason to be discussing this at all. Seriously: if the question is "what name do we give to the way we receive sanctification from the Holy Spirit," then this entire line of blog posts are, at best, overkill.

The real meat is below.

| This is best brought out by the concept of Doctrine. If
| anyone suggested to me that the Lord brought them a
| word that created some doctrine, then I would rule it
| out. This would certainly be branching into apostolic
| roles. However, I have not one problem doubting that
| God could impress upon a preacher than a member in
| his congregation had a bottle of gin with him.

I want to make sure I understand what you are saying: it is your position that God could give a preacher supernatural, infallible knowledge of someone's physical condition (i.e. – he had a bottle of hootch in his pocket) and that knowledge would not be on-par with Scripture.

Why would you affirm the first half and not affirm the second half? Let's assume something for the benefit of your argument: let's assume that Scripture teaches us, without any question, that a preacher could have supernatural, infallible knowledge of someone's physical condition without an active "Thus saith the Lord" experience.

If you affirm the first half – which is what I would affirm when speaking about Paul writing Romans or John writing John – there is no reason not to affirm the second half. Yet, it is clear by your answer that you do not affirm the second half because you can see the problem with investing the authority of Scripture into every utterance that comes from the pulpit.

I think that Spurgeon does not affirm the first half when he talks about these impressions: he is talking about something substantially inferior to the composition of Scripture – because, for example, Paul could not written other than what we have in Romans 1:16, but Spurgeon himself could have ignored or misinterpreted his own impressions of the man with the bottle.

I admit this: I admire the restraint exemplified by those who, while claiming a Charismatic inclinations, deny that they have Prophets and Apostles in the Biblical sense of men who personally have received a clear verbal message from God and are thereby invested with special authority, verified by signs and wonders. The problem is that the positions of Prophet and Apostle do not have a diminutive or "lite" version. Either one is a personal ambassador of God with His Word given to deliver, or one, like the rest of us, does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

| John MacArthur and all other Cessationist pastors
| have all probably used illustrations or said poingnant
| truths that ended up speaking directly into an
| individual's situation. This is the providential work of
| the Holy Spirit through a given agent. This would
| simply be what most of us would call "prophecy".

Most Charismatics, perhaps. The problem is that this trades on the word "prophecy" as if it was a multidimensional theological term. When the Bible mentions "prophecy", it is not merely talking about a word of truth in the abstract sense, or even a word of truth in the personal, subjective sense: it is speaking about a particular propositional statement given by a supernatural entity which ought to have authoritative value. I would enjoy an exchange on the girl Paul silences the girl with the prophetic spirit to refine that definition – my point in using it to underscore that "prophecy" is not merely "telling the truth" but "revealing the future supernaturally".

As much as it is a burden to take on the mantle of being a teacher, how much more is it a spiritual burden and responsibility to claim to be speaking for God and from God as a prophet – when one does not mean what that word means? If all the charismatics are saying is that God gifted some to be preachers, teachers and evangelists, so be it – but let's not muck up the waters by claiming to be "prophets" when in facts one is nothing of the sort.

centuri0n said...

Amen to Inscrutible Dave, BTW. Amen.

centuri0n said...

And, as a last post on this until someone wants to complain about what I have already said, I want to say something clearly: there is a difference between saying, "the Apostolic gifts have ceased" and "God does not work out miracles today".

Every single conversion is a miracle: every one requires something that only God can do for the individual. Anyone who rejects that the miraculous occurs today is not thinking very clearly.

The flip side of that is, frankly, whether Scipture is sufficient to equip the man of God fully for every good work. If it is, then those who are advocates of God giving "impressions" or "words of truth" apart from the Scripture which are supernatural and infallible have a rather large problem to deal with. If it is not, I say lay on with the gifts because they are sorely lacking in the church today.

DOGpreacher said...

Amen x 2 to 'inscrutableone' & 'centurion'....and of course Phil!

Hey guys...if you have an exuberant zeal for praising God, and serving Him, you don't have to "convert" to some 'mild' charismaticism to express it.

Be careful, I was raised in pentecostal/charismatic Churches, and saw a whole lot "in the Name of Jesus" that was vanity to the core.

I think it is possible that some from both sides of the argument are actually in agreement. Does God give impressions ? I think so. Does He also allow satan permission to do the same ? I think so. Dave handled that well!

No, Churches that are non-cessationist are not all the same. As soon as some one discounts some one elses vision/dream/prophecy because it doesn't line up with scripture (or perhaps their OWN v/d/p), PRIDE will raise it's ugly head. Then one will need to one-up the other, and another will need to discredit the other....but hey, this doesn't happen overnight. Towers of Babel usually get very tall...before they fall.

Prez5 said...

The key issue here is that what the Bible says on the issue. The Bible leaves us with commands like the following:

Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things.

AND

Covet to prophesy and forbid not to speak with tongues.


The problem with cessationism is that it leads people to disobey direct commands of scripture based on loose reasoning.

Here are some arguments cessationists use to say that these gifts have ceased.

-That gifts were only passed down through the laying on of hands of the apostles.

* Scripture shows us that gifts were given as the Spirit wills. Sometimes they were given at the laying on of hands of apostles, on another occasion when an apostle preached the word and the listeners were empowered to speak in tongues. One man received a gift through prophecy with the laying on of hands of the elders. Paul became an apostle, apparently, without the laying on of hands of the apostles.

- The idea that gifts served to confirm scripture, and that once scripture was completed that gifts were no longer needed.

* The problem with this doctrine is that it does not come from scripture, and therefore violates the principle of sola scriptura. The Bible does show that God did at times, bear witness to preachers of the word with signs and wonders, but it does not teach that these gifts were to confirm the scriptures per se, or that once the scriptures were completed that the role of gifts to bear witness to the word preached would cease.

- That 'the perfect' in I Corinthians 13 is the scriptures and therefore tongues and prophecy have ceased.

* If 'the perfect' is the completed canon, then according to the passage, we should view ourselves as spiritually more mature than Paul. If we are so much spiritually more mature than Paul that his understanding should be consider childish, why would we regard his words as spiritually authoratative.

- That the gifts were only for a certain time period or age on a Bible prophecy chart.

* The scripture does not teach that these gifts were only for a certain age. These charts are not in the Bible.

- That these gifts only appeared at certain time periods when revelation was being given or scripture was being written.

* MacArthur makes an argument along these lines.

1. A major problem with his argument is that he is expecting the characteristic of the post-Pentecost age to be the same as the pre-Pentecost age. If miracles were only done at certain time periods in the pre-Pentecost age, that does not mean that it will be the same in this age when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh and the Comforter has been sent to the church.

2. Many of the miracles in the OT were probably not done during times when scripture was being written. Elijah and Elisha did miracles, but their works were apparently recorded as scripture much later on.

3. If scripture does not record that revelations and miracles were being done, that does not mean they were not being done. There may have been miracles in pre-NT times that were not mentioned in scripture. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the festival of lights, Hannakah. The Bible does not tell us whether the miracle of temple oil burning for an extra day that this feast commemorates was genuine, but it may have been for all we know.

- Many Cessationists argue that if an prophecy is from God, it should be in the Bible, and therefore is adding to scripture (citing the prohibition to adding to the book of Revelation.)

* The Bible shows us that numerous prophecies were given that were not recorded in scripture. It makes reference to genuine prophets and their revelations, but does not tell us what those revelations were.

* Some Cessationists argue that history shows that the gifts ceased.

- History shows that the gifts continued. There is so much information for this in even the most standard 'church fathers' collections and later ages, that Benjamin Warfield wrote an entire book writing excuses for why we should reject each one of these incidents.